Describe and evaluate the use of the behavioural approach to the treatment of phobias 12 mark essay plan

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Describe and evaluate the use of the behavioural approach to the
treatment of phobias (12 marks)
A01
Point 1 Systematic desensitisation (SD)
A behavioural therapy designed to gradually reduce the phobic anxiety through the
principle of classical conditioning. If the sufferer can learn to relax in the presence of
the phobic stimulus they will be cured as a new response is learned aka counter
conditioning
Impossible to be afraid and relaxed at the same time, so one prevents the other this
is called reciprocal inhibition
Three processes involved in SD
o Anxiety hierarchy
List of situations related to the phobia that provoke anxiety, from
least frightening to most frightening
E.g. arachnophobic, seeing a picture of a spider as low anxiety and
holding a tarantula as high anxiety.
o Relaxation
Therapist tells patient to relax as deeply as possible, through
breathing exercises or learning mental imagery techniques (relaxing
on a beach)
Meditation
Drugs such as Valium
o Exposure
Exposed to the phobic stimulus while in a relaxed state
This is done over a few sessions
Works best when patient can stay relaxed in high anxiety situations
Point 2 Flooding
Exposing the patient directly to the phobic object e.g. fear of flying will be sent up in
a light aircraft
First the person is in a state of extreme anxiety/panic, eventually anxiety levels
decrease.
In flooding they have no option but to confront their fears, when the panic subsides
they find to have come to no harm
They learn the phobic stimulus is harmless ­ this is called extinction
A patient is usually given a choice of SD or flooding, need to have informed consent
as traumatic experience

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A02 Evaluation
Point 1 It is effective
Research support shows its effective
o Gilroy et al (2003) followed up 42 patients who'd been treated for
arachnophobia in 3, 45 minute sessions of SD
o Control group treated by relaxation without exposure.…read more

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