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Systematic desensitisation a type of behaviour therapy which is designed to reduced the anxiety
that an individual feels when in the presence of a particular feared object. In this procedure, a client is
first trained to relax, then exposed to graded stages of anxiety-provoking situations. The idea is that
the relaxation inhibits any anxiety that might be elicited by the object. The person is gradually
exposed to the feared object, first through imagining it and then moving into actual physical
situations involving the feared object.
Implosion therapy a technique for ridding a client of phobias that requires the client to imagine the
feared situation. This causes an `explosion' of anxiety, but because the explosion is internal (i.e. they
are not experiencing it for real, but are imagining it), it is called an implosion. The principle behind this
treatment is that the client must be able to experience the feared situation (e.g. imagining
themselves caught in a cellar full of rats) in the safe context of the therapy session. As phobics will
normally attempt to escape from or avoid the phobic situation, they are denied the opportunity of
doing that in this therapy. The therapist describes a fearful situation, then invited the client to
imagine it as the therapist has described it. This produces panic, but as the treatment is repeated
over and over again, the situation loses some of its power to produce panic, and so gradually the
Flooding a therapeutic technique similar in nature to implosion therapy, except that unlike
implosion, the client is actually put into the phobic situation. For example, someone with a fear of
heights is taken to the top of a tall building, an agoraphobic is taken to a public place. The therapy
works through confronting the client with the feared situation until the fear subsides. The situation
itself may be preceded by the client listening to a tape recording of an account of their most feared
situation. This is played over and over again until the client no longer feels the same degree of terror.
They are then exposed to the situation themselves. This therapy can work quite quickly for specific
phobias (such as fear of snakes or spiders), but is less rapid for agoraphobia. Not surprisingly, the
therapy is one of the least popular with clients, but is one of the most effective. It is only ever carried
out with the full consent of the clients involved.
Aversion therapy a therapeutic technique which uses an unpleasant stimulus to change a deviant
behaviour. The deviant behaviours in question are usually alcoholism and drug abuse, although the
technique has also been more controversially used for sexual perversions and aggressive behaviour.
Aversion therapy works by pairing together the stimulus that normally invited deviant behaviour
(such as alcoholic drink or a sexual image) with an unpleasant (aversive) stimulus such as an electric
shock or a nausea-inducing drug. With repeated presentations, the two stimuli become associated
and the person develops an aversion toward the stimulus that formerly gave rise to the deviant
behaviour (i.e. tries to avoid it). The use of such aversive stimuli, however, has been controversial to
say the least.