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Systematic Desensitization

This is a form of treatment or therapy for phobias, fears, and aversions that people have. The premise is to reduce a person’s anxiety responses through counterconditioning – a person who learned to be afraid of something is associating fear with that object or behavior, and the way to eliminate this is to teach the person to replace the feelings of anxiety with feelings of relaxation when the object or behavior is present. This approach is based on conditioning relaxation with the feared object or object of anxiety. For example:

A) the fear – fear of dating women
B) the client is asked to create a hierarchy of anxiety (what makes the client afraid, from least fear-producing to most fear-producing).

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1) sitting next to a woman in class (least)
2) talking to a woman in the class
3) walking with a woman on campus
4) calling a woman on the phone
5) eating a meal with a woman
6) going out on a date with a woman (most)

C) the therapist then teaches the client some relaxation techniques and then has the client use the relaxation technique when encountering (or just thinking about) the first level (sitting next to a woman in class). Once the client is comfortable with this, they move on to the next level, and so on until the client becomes relaxed and is able to go out on a date with a woman.

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