Systematic Desensitisation

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  • Created by: alice
  • Created on: 22-05-12 17:05

Systematic desensitisation links to the assumption of classical conditioning. The behaviourist approach assumes that we learn behaviours through association. Therefore this approach proposes that phobias are learnt through association. Systematic desensitisation aims to treat phobias by unlearning the phobia using the principles of classical conditioning, this technique was developed by Jones (1924) in the case of ‘Little Peter’ Peter showed an extreme fear of several animals including rats, rabbits and frogs, Jones (1924) used this technique to cure Peter of his phobia.

This technique was then developed further and named systematic desensitisation. This therapy follows several steps, the first two steps being counter-conditioning, firstly the patient is taught to relax their muscles completely so the patient moves from responding to the stimulus with fear to responding to the stimulus with relaxation. Secondly, the therapist and patient construct a desensitisation hierarchy, which consists of imagined


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