Elaine Papas

Nathan Azrin, Ph.D., ABPP

Professor
Center for Psychological Studies

One of the Most Cited Psychologists in the World

NSU's drive to develop a top notch clinical psychology program began in 1980 with a push for accreditation organized around recruitment of a core group of a half-dozen clinicians with national reputations. One of them, Nathan Azrin, Ph.D., ABPP, is still active on the CPS faculty.

Trained at Harvard University by famous behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner, Azrin is "one of the most cited psychologists in the world," explains Karen Grosby, M. Ed., Dean of NSU's Center for Psychological Studies, who adds that he has "driven the reputation of the department."

The public knows Azrin as the author of Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, the popular how-to guide that sold three million copies and has been reproduced in dozens of languages. But it is his work with the severely mentally-handicapped, the so-called "untrainables," upon which a large part of his legacy rests. The techniques he pioneered nearly half a century ago remain in widespread use today. Azrin developed "shaping," or, "successive approximation" strategies to get the untrainables to perform at higher levels than previously thought possible. His methods involve identifying behavioral tasks, beginning with their smallest components, then giving the patients small, frequent rewards to encourage a succession of desired behaviors.

"To get someone dressed, for example, requires putting on a shirt," said Azrin. "But first, the person must reach for the shirt. And before that, the person must get up and go toward it. And even more basically, you need to say to the person,'look at me,' and get them to make eye contact."

Immediate rewards at each achievement level made the impossible possible.
In addition to rewards, Azrin is also conversely known for his work developing punishments. Today's parents can thank Azrin for inventing "time-out," the popular alternative to spanking, by which misbehaving youngsters are sent away to reflect quietly while considering their misdeeds. Azrin's pioneering work has also included "job club" reemployment procedures in standard use during corporate layoffs within the United States, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. He is also known for inventing the regulated breathing method to treat stuttering. His myriad of lifetime achievements mark him as one of today's great thought-leaders "moving psychology toward science and away from armchair analysis."