Tuesday Therapy Notes: Exposure Therapy

For this week’s Tuesday Therapy Notes I want to talk about exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that is beneficial for patients who are battling phobias or for patients who are battling PTSD or OCD. In this type of therapy, the therapist works with the patient to identify a patient’s triggers, then in a safe, controlled manner exposes them to these triggers and works with them to develop coping mechanisms to handle those triggers.

For example, I have a phobia of bees. My coping mechanism is to simply leave when bees are about, but if I didn’t want to continue having a phobia, I might benefit from exposure therapy. However, I am perfectly content just leaving.

Exposure therapy can be done two different ways. The first way is known as flooding. This process presents a large amount of the triggering stimulus. By contrast, the other type of exposure therapy, known as desensitization, involves introducing small amounts of the stimulus and increasing the stimulus over time.

Back to my bee example, flooding would basically have me surrounded by a swarm of bees (no thanks). Desensitization would involve being exposed to one bee, then two bees, and so on and so forth. That might be a little more acceptable to me.

And if this is something you battle, it is important to do this with a therapist, and not try to do this yourself. Your therapist will offer you ways of managing the triggers so that they are not as much of an debilitating issue, which is of course, the goal of any therapy.

Source: NAMI – Psychotherapy


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