Systematic Desensitization

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  • Created by: z_mills1
  • Created on: 19-05-14 10:55
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  • Psychological therapies - Systematic Desensitization
    • used in the treatment of anxiety, particularly anxiety associated with phobias
    • aim is to reduce or eliminate the anxiety that people associate with feared objects or situations - which interfere with being able to lead a normal life
    • Step 1 - patient is taught how to relax their muscles completely
    • Step 2 - therapist and patient together construct a desensitisation hierarchy - a series of imagined scenes, each one causing a little more anxiety than the previous one
    • Step 3 - patient gradually works their way through the hierarchy, visualising each anxiety-evoking event while relaxing
    • Step 4 - once the patient has mastered one step in the hierarchy they are ready to move on to the next
    • Step 5 - patient eventually masters the feared situation that caused them to seek help in the first place
    • Evaluation
      • Strengths
        • relatively quick and requires less effort on the patient's part that other psychotherapies
          • patients are more likely to persevere, making treatment more likely to succeed
        • SD is successful for a range of anxiety disorders e.g. fear and flying
          • McGrath et al. estimate that SD is effective in about 75% of patients with phobias
      • Limitations
        • SD may appear to resolve a problem, but simply eliminating symptoms (rather than cause) may result in other symptoms appearing later on
        • SD appears to be less effective in treating anxieties that have an underlying adaptive component (e.g. fear of dangerous animals) than those acquired through personal experience


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