Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

In the therapist's chair

Ever since I started studying Psychology at high school, I've dreamt of becoming a psychologist. I've always wanted to help people, as cliched as that sounds, and I think this is the best way for me to do that. If I ever do manage to become a psychologist, applied behavioural analysis (ABA) would be a useful arrow in the quiver of therapeutic techniques.

Fear is a common emotion and is a part of many psychological disorders. Alleviating fear, therefore, is an important part of therapy. One way to do this is by using systematic desensitization. This is a step-by-step technique that could be used to reduce fear of something gradually. For instance. if a client with social phobia comes in, their fear can be reduced by small steps towards the end aim of, say going to a party. They would be taught relaxation techniques at the start of therapy and would be asked to practice these at each stage. The underlying concept of this technique is that relaxation and fear cannot occur at the same time. Thus, if they manage to stay relaxed at every stage, they will not feel fear any longer.
Thus, they could first have a conversation with someone they trust at home. Next, they could have a conversation with the same person outside their home. Small steps like these could be taken till then feel comfortable going to a small party with their close friends. 


Shroeder & Rich (1976) showed the effectiveness of this technique with 15 female snake phobics. They conducted therapy during eight 30-minute sessions. In each session they were provided with relaxation instructions and then presented with a hierarchy of anxiety provoking tasks. Each item was presented until the subject didn't signal any more anxiety. In these tasks, they alternately imagined a fear scene for 30 seconds and relaxed for thirty seconds. All subjects showed a reduction of fear at the end of the 8 sessions. 

Thus, this technique of systematic desensitization has been proven to be effective in dealing with anxiety and various phobias. It would therefore be very useful in therapy. 

REFERENCE
Schroeder, H. E., & Rich, A. R. (1976). The process of fear reduction through systematic desensitization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,44(2), 191.

Geetanjali Basarkod

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