Systematic Desensitisation: Behaviourist Treatment


Aim: to extinguish the conditioned association between fear and the situation or object. (Counter-conditioning)

In the case of a phobia, conditioning can be altered. If you can learn a behviour you can "un-learn" it. It can be attempted to subsitute a mal-adaptive response with a new response.

1) The first thing is teach the client deep relaxation techniques. (muscle-relaxing, breathing)

2) The therapist and client construct a desensitisation hierarchy - imagined scenes that would cause anxiety.

E.g. Fear of heights (Acrophobia)

1. Standing on a window and looking out

2. Standing on a stepladder to change a light-bulb

3. Standing on a balcony

4. Climbing a


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