Exposure therapy might sound like something you would use for phobias, but in the world of therapy, it’s actually a form of cognitive therapy. This form of psychotherapy helps the person overcome their challenges by directly confronting the person with the source of their anxiety. To help you understand this we will look at how it works, how it’s done, how to do it and why to do it.
What is Exposure Therapy?
Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that is commonly associated with many different phobias. It is also used to treat anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Exposure therapy is a form of desensitization, which means the patient is gradually exposed to the object of their fear. The patient is then asked to face the feared object and gradually learns to neutralize the fear response by changing the way they think about the object. For example, someone who is afraid of bees is gradually exposed to pictures of bees and bee stings until their fear and anxiety are reduced.
What happens in exposure therapy?
Before exposure therapy starts, it’s important that the person receiving treatment knows and feels that they are in a safe and controlled
environment. The goal is to help them learn that they’re not in danger and to help them face their fears.
The treatment is done one-on-one with a therapist or a support group. It can be done face-to-face or via video conference. The first step is to identify the feared object or situation. Exposure therapy can then be done in a number of ways. One is to have the person imagine their worst fear or trauma is happening and then roleplay the event out in different environments to make it less real. The therapist will help the patient to gradually face the thing that they fear and teach them how to relax/control their response to the thing they are being exposed to. This exposure is usually done through the use of imagination, video, role-play, or real-life ‘in vivo’ exposure. The patient is given homework assignments where they are asked to picture the situation in vivid detail.
Eventually, the person receiving exposure therapy will learn to respond to the thing that they fear with relaxation instead of fear. As it’s important that the person receiving treatment feels they are in a safe and controlled environment, they can control how much anxiety they feel, they can decide when they’ve had enough.
Why does Exposure Therapy work?
Exposure therapy does work, and the main reason for this is that exposure to the feared object, animal, or situation is done gradually, addressing the underlying cause. Using a method that takes the client from a barely manageable exposure to a very manageable one. The exposure to the feared object is done in steps, starting with something very small and ending with an exposure that may include the actual feared object.
One reason exposure therapy works is that it helps people to become familiar with the object they fear. Instead of continuing to avoid the object, they stay in contact with it while facing their fears. Eventually, the exposure helps the patient develop a new association with the thing they are afraid of. It can also help them gradually learn to relax in other situations that may be related to their fear.
Exposure therapy is for which disorders?
Exposure therapy is used to treat many mental health conditions. It can be used with other forms of therapy and medication. A lot of anxiety disorders and phobias can be treated with exposure therapy. Exposure therapy can also be used to treat panic disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder. Through exposure, your therapist helps you to face your fears in a safe environment.
• Exposure therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety, phobia, and other mental health conditions.
• It is based on the theory of “unlearning”.
• The brain has a habit of remembering and overreacting to negative experiences.
• Exposure therapy works by repeatedly exposing the patient to the anxiety-inducing object or situation, which causes the brain to “unlearn” the fear response.
The purpose of this blog was to give you the information you need to consider Exposure Therapy as a possible treatment option for your particular issue. If you would like more information on how exposure therapy might help you explore the world around you and seek new opportunities to challenge your fears, please contact us. Thank you for reading and we look forward to hearing from you!