Exposure Therapy

Exposure Therapy for anxietyA type of behavioral therapy that is different than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is Exposure with Response Prevention.

It is often used to treat specific phobias. Exposure with Response Prevention involves gradually making the patient familiar with the object or action causing anxiety – a sort of step-by-step face your fears treatment.

Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, exposes you to the situations or objects you fear. The idea is that through repetitive exposures, you’ll feel an increasing sense of control over the situation and your anxiety will diminish.

As an anxiety therapy, the exposure is done in one of two ways: Your therapist may ask you to imagine the frightening situation, or you may confront it in real life. Exposure therapy is sometimes conducted on its own, but often it in combined with other therapies such as CBT.part of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Systematic Desensitization and Anxiety Therapy

As opposed to facing your biggest fear right immediately (which could be potentially more traumatic) exposure therapy typically begins with a scenario that is less threatening and builds from there. This stepped up approach is known as systematic desensitization.

Systematic desensitization empowers you to slowly face your fears and build confidence that you can manage your anxiety. Systematic desensitization is composed of four basic steps:

  1. First, you learn relaxation skills. During therapy, your therapist teaches you relaxation techniques. This could include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or breath work.
  2. Next, you will practice the techniques you’ve learned outside of therapy. They can usually be done at home or at a quiet place at work, if you have one. After you practice managing your anxiety, you should find that the different techniques can actually reduce or eliminate your physical anxiety response.
  3. Now you will write out a list of the ten scenarios that are most frightening to you and what it would look like if you overcame that fear. For example, if you end goal is to overcome your fear of spiders, your therapist would probably begin by having you view picture of spider. At the therapy progresses and nears the end, you might actually go to a pet store and touch a pet spider.

Systematic Desensitization in Counseling

Anxiety Exposure TherapyWith the support of your therapist, you will begin to examine each item on your list. You will most likely work on each frightening situation until your anxiety is manageable. In this manner, you should see that you can manage your thoughts and feelings.

With systematic desensitization therapy, the goal is to be committed in practicing your relaxation techniques every time you are placed in a scary situation and anxiety arises. When your anxiety gets excessive, you will automatically switch to your favorite relaxation technique. Once you have relaxed, you can return to whatever you were doing. In this way, systematic desensitization therapy can be life changing experience.

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