Graduated Exposure Therapy

Graduated exposure therapy, also termed as systematic desensitization, aims to help individuals overcome their irrational fears by slowly and systematically exposing them to what they are not comfortable with. The following steps are often used in desensitizing the client:

* Identification of Anxiety Stimulus Hierarchy The client specifies the rank of anxiety provoking triggers. For instance, the individual is afraid of cockroaches and he ranks looking at roach pictures as third while the feeling of the insect on his skin is tiered as first.

* Learn Coping Mechanisms The therapist works with the client by teaching relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, cognitive reappraisal, and meditation. For example, the client is asked to practice breathing exercises and imagery routines.

* Connect the Stimulus with the Coping Method The client will be exposed to the different levels of the stimulus. For instance, the individual is asked to imagine what may happen if he encounters a cockroach and is encouraged to replace the imagined negative outcome with a more pleasurable situation. This will then be succeeded by the next stimulus in the hierarchy coupled with a coping mechanism.

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