• Kevin Kenealy

Exposure Therapy for Anxiety


Being anxious is not pleasant at all. People generally try to stay away from positions that make them feel anxious. For example, if someone is afraid of heights, that person is going to drive three hours out of the way just to avoid a tall bridge. However, the thing about avoiding your fears also means that you are never going to be able to overcome them. As a matter of fact, avoiding your fears makes them stronger and difficult for you to get rid of them.


There is a therapy modality known as Exposure therapy which exposes you to the situations that make you uncomfortable. If you feel that you gradually get control over your anxiety, that means that you’re getting stronger and can have solid control over your thoughts. The exposure is done in two ways; either the therapist asks you to think of an uncomfortable situation or they may confront you themselves.


Systematic Desensitization

The therapy works in different ways. The therapy starts with only slight threats so that you have time and strength to overcome the situation. This process is known as systematic desensitization.


Systematic desensitization involves three parts:


  • The first part is to learn relaxation skills. This is where your therapist steps in and teaches you relaxation techniques. You then must practice those skills at your home. Practicing these steps helps you confront your fears much faster than you can expect.

  • The second part is to create a step-by-step list. In this step, you are required to create 10-20 horrific scenarios that take you towards your end goal. An example of this is that if your goal is to overcome your fear of heights or fear of flying, then you should get started by imagining yourself taking a flight. It is also important to know that your imaginary scenarios must be realistic and mature.

  • The third part involves getting comfortable and confident with the list of steps. When you get a hang of following these steps, you are going to feel that you are getting better at it much faster than you expect. The entire goal of imagining these scenarios is to realize that being in such kinds of situations doesn't hurt you. If the anxiety gets too intense, you are going to be able to calm yourself down through the relaxation techniques that you learned. Gradually, you are going to overcome every kind of situation and stress far less.


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