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Describe and evaluate two treatments of phobias. (10 marks)
The two main approaches involved with treating phobias are the behaviourist
approach and the psychodynamic approach.
A treatment used in behaviourist approach is systematic desensitisation which
involves a one to one session in which the patient creates a hierarchy of their
phobia from the least feared up to the most feared situation they could be put
in for example if a patient was to be scared of a dog their hierarchy may start
with the fur and then leading onto the paw, the mouth, seeing the dog and
finally being in the presence of the dog. A therapist will work through these
stages by putting them in each situation step by step and if one goes too far
they'll take it back until they can be in a state of relaxation and then attempt
the next stage again.
This treatment was tested by Rothembaum (2000) where he used either
standard or virtual reality presentation of the anxiety hierarchy to participants
who were afraid of flying. Following treatment, 93% of both groups agreed to
take a trial flight. Their anxiety levels were lower than those of a control group
who had not received systematic desensitisation and this improvement was
maintained when they were followed up six months later.
The strengths of SD are that its evidence suggests that it is quite effective for
certain phobias such as animals or objects, and the positive effects seem to
last longer than other therapy's for phobias.
This treatment is considered ethical because the patient has control of the
treatment due to the fact the progression up the hierarchy can only occur if
patients feel confident enough to do so.
The problems with this research are that it does not work for all phobias,
especially social phobias e.g. open spaces and isn't 100% effective, and isn't
said to work on every person that has been treated by it.
This treatment can be quite stressful for the patient, as well as time consuming
and is very much an expensive procedure.
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Contradicting this theory the psychodynamic theory, if a phobia is a result of an
unconscious or underlying issue, systematic desensitisation will not remove the
The other treatment used to cure phobias is Freud's free association treatment
which aims to make the unconscious conscious.
Free association patient talks of whatever comes into their mind. This
technique involves a therapist reading a list of words (e.g. mother, childhood
etc.) and the patient immediately responds with the first word that comes to
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After treatment she was
able to understand her fear and confront them and then afterwards she
actually and eventually got over them also.
The strengths of this treatments is that is study is not invasive and participants
suffer no permanent damage.…read more