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What Is Meant By Systematic Desensitization? What Is Its Purpose and Treatment

Referencing Styles : Chicago | Pages : 1

The kind of specific behavior therapy that is developed for the purpose of helping people to overcome anxiety disorders and phobias under the concept of classical conditioning, which is known for sharing applied behavior analysis and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The concept of systematic desensitization was coined by Joseph Wolpe, a psychiatrist from South Africa in the 1950s. The concept of systematic desensitization is considered under the field of clinical psychology. Systematic desensitization is constructed on the basis of functional analysis and radical behaviorism, due to the incorporation of counterconditioning principles like, breathing and meditation. Systematic desensitization includes three phases. Identifying anxiety with the association of stimulus hierarchy is considered under systematic desensitization. Second phase includes the practice of relaxation techniques. After the understanding and practice of above skills, the individual learns the art of overcoming fear from different level in hierarchy. The aim of systematic desensitization is to develop the knowledge and information regarding the function of overcoming hierarchical steps of fear.  The purpose of conducting the learning process in systematic desensitization is to eliminate the response from the application of phobia. The learning process replaces the process of relaxation with a conditional stimulus, as adding conditional stimulus through the implication of the technique of counter conditioning will eliminate the cause of fear. There are various phases of treatment in systematic desensitization. The techniques involved with breathing exercises are performed in the very first phase of treatment. For instance, controlling the breathing function, meditation and muscle detensioning. The step of control over the function of breathing is very crucial for understanding the application of reciprocal inhibition. The reciprocal inhibition involves the inhibition of responses due to its incompatible nature. In scenario of phobias, the application of fear includes tension and tension is associated with the factor of relaxation. In the second stage, the hierarchy of fear is created by patients by structuring the least cause of anxiety first and then building upon the fear.  The list is known for structuring the treatment of the phobias.

The concept of systematic desensitization is considered to be therapy that is evidence-based, combining the practice of relaxation with the association of steady exposure for the purpose of healing the effects and psychology of fear. In the facilitation of systematic desensitization, the individuals are taught to deal with the fear through each level, by starting from a least fearful experience. Relaxation methods are used from the beginning of the treatment. The features of systematic desensitization differs from different existent desensitization methods like flooding. The classical conditioning theory is used in the facilitation of treatment of different phases of fear. The main purpose of the treatments in systematic desensitization theories is replacing anxiety and fear with state of calm. The basic treatment procedure guides the patients in associating relaxation techniques in the process of conquering fear in each step. The relaxation techniques have to be adopted in every step till the time when the patients will no longer experience discomfort from the phobias.

One of the major areas of treatment in systematic desensitization involves relaxation exercises. The relaxation techniques can be utilized in various combinations in a specific group or by its own. The first relaxation technique in systematic desensitization is diaphragmatic breathing. In the technique of diaphragmatic breathing, the patients learns to breath slowly and heavily by holding the breath for at most two seconds and continuing to breathe through mouth. Another technique of relaxation is visualization. In visualization, the patients are asked to picture or visualize a peaceful concept of scene in their mind by concentrating in the sensory details of body like, smell, sight and sound. This technique of relaxation usually involves storytelling or a guide helping the process of imagination. Another tool of relaxation is progressive muscle relaxation. In the technique of progressive muscle relaxation, the individuals learn various physical exercised for understanding the difference in relaxed muscles and tensed muscles. The patients are asked to practice the process of tense and releasing the muscles. The understanding of the difference can help in the recognition of experience of muscle tensing up during an encounter with fear or anxiety. Meditation is considered to be one of the most important techniques of practicing relaxation. Meditation is the technique which usually does not require guidance in the functioning process. Meditation helps individuals with anxiety issues, to become aware of the feelings and thoughts in a fearful state. The awareness regarding each feeling while facing specific fear, patients/individuals can learn to fight against the cause of fear.

The learning of techniques of relaxation will be followed by the construction of hierarchy for specific fear and anxiety issues. The hierarchy for fighting fear and anxiety includes ten levels. The very first step can be the identification process of the maximum frightening phases of one’s fear or in other words, identifying ‘level 10’ fear. The first step will be followed by the understanding of the least level of fear, i.e. level 1. The in between fear levels will be marked by accepting the causes of fear and/or anxiety. The third step will also involve the understanding of the rate of value or trigger a fear holds. The next step will be to construct methods of exposing oneself with those fear from each level with the help of a professional therapist or a family member or a friend. The last step will be concentrated to the conquering process with fear and anxiety. The last step will expose individuals with fear from the least. The understanding regarding the relaxation techniques will help with the gradual exposure of fearful content. The simplistic approach can be thinking about a specific fear and incorporating one of the relaxation technique during the experience of anxiety.  The steps should be repeated while going up the ladder of fears. Relaxation techniques in each step will transform your reaction to specified fears through the incorporation of calmness. The importance of systematic desensitization can be reflected in the healing process from anxiety or fear by incorporating significant relaxation techniques.


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