Systematic Desensitisation

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  • Systematic Desensitisation
    • Intro
      • Phobias are learned through negative experiences.
      • Wolpe (1958) said we maintain our phobias due to negative reinforcement. We avoid the things that we are scared of instead of overcoming them.
    • Aims
      • The aim is to extinguish a phobia by eradicating an undesirable behaviour (fear) and replace it with a desirable one (relaxation).
    • Types
      • In-Vitro: the client only imagines the exposure to the thing they fear, they're not actually exposed.
      • In-Vivo: the client is actually exposed to the thing that they have a phobia of.
    • Process
      • Relaxation techniques are taught. Hierarchy of fear is created by client and therapist. Work through it step by step at clients own pace.
      • The process can be called counter conditioning as a new response became associated with the previously feared stimulus.
    • Research
      • Lang and Lazovik (1963): The fear of snakes in college students was tested over an 11 session period. SD was effective for the majority and 6 months later the phobia was still reduced.
      • McGrath (1990): They determined that SD was successful for a wide range of anxiety disorders. 75% of patients with phobias respond to treatment.


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