What is exposure therapy
It is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps patients change their thinking patterns and habits, and thus can reduce or eliminate the manifestations of depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental disorders.
Exposure therapy, based on the principle of “Face your fear”, teaches the patient to maintain composure despite the influence of fearful factors.
“In the course of therapy, the patient for some time is in a situation that causes strong fear, or imagines it as vividly as possible. Virtual reality technologies can also be applied. For example, a patient who is afraid of heights rides a Ferris wheel. The longer the so-called exposure lasts, the more the anxiety diminishes, ”explains clinical psychologist Paul Green.
It has been scientifically proven that regular exposure practice can reduce the manifestation of various anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy is usually given weekly for several months.
How does this type of therapy help with various disorders?
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Patients with OCD often perform certain rituals and obsessions, and if they are unable to do so, they experience intense fear. In this case, exposure therapy is used to prevent reactions. For example, a person with OCD constantly washes their hands for long periods of time after the slightest contact with something “dirty”. During therapy, he deliberately touches more and more “dirty” objects and resists the compulsive urge to wash his hands.
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Both real and imagined exhibits help patients who have experienced trauma from sexual assault, car accidents, violent crimes, participation in hostilities and more.
- Social phobia. Exposure is very effective in treating social phobia. Patients can, for example, start a conversation themselves with those who are embarrassed, speak in front of an audience, chat “about nothing” with unfamiliar people.
- Phobias. Exposure is very effective in treating phobias. For example, if a patient is afraid of snakes, they can walk into pet stores or terrariums as an exercise and observe the reptiles for, say, 20 minutes. For those who are afraid to drive, a short drive around the block can be the exhibit. Such exercises (under the supervision of an experienced therapist) may be sufficient to completely eliminate the phobia.
Step by step
The effectiveness of this type of therapy has been confirmed by decades of research, and in many countries it is used primarily for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Exposure has been shown to be more effective in treating anxiety disorders than traditional “talk” psychotherapy.
“If you have anxiety disorder, try to find a therapist who specializes in exposure therapy. I understand perfectly well that you really do not want to go through it. But remember that the professional therapist will always coordinate the upcoming exercises with you and take into account the limits of your current capabilities.
He will not try to force you to do any action. Every specialist knows very well that exposure therapy is most effective only when you overcome the challenges that you can handle, ”explains Paul Green.