Exposure Therapy: A Personal Experience with Fear

Exposure Therapy | Self Help | Phobias | Fear

Woman reaching out with right hand while swimming under the surface of a pool.
Do you have a phobia that you have wondered if you can do without? Read about my experience with Exposure Therapy, and consider whether a self-guided plan or a structured and mediated plan could help you. Photo by Imei Hsu (2018).

There is a type of phone call I receive at least a half dozen or more times a year. It sounds something like this:

Caller: Hi, I’m calling about a problem I have, and wondering if you do this.”

Me: Sure, what is the problem?

Caller: Well, I feel kind of embarrassed to say this, but I am afraid of [insert fear]. I don’t even know what can be done about it.

Me: OK, thank you for sharing what you are afraid of. Up to now, what have you done to address your fear of [insert fear] so far?

Caller: Mostly, I just try to avoid it.

Me: OK, how’s that working for you?

Caller: [laughing] Obviously not too well if I’m calling you!

Me: Fair enough!

Caller: So, do you offer any help for this? Like, do you do some kind of desensitizing program?

Me: Do you mean, Exposure Therapy?

Caller: Yes.

Me: That depends on the type of response and the type of phobia.

After we get to that last sentence, everything afterwards is dependent on the type of phobia and the individual’s response to that phobia; everything else is generalized information that isn’t specific enough to be helpful. Over the course of my counseling practice, I’ve been able to help individuals confront specific phobias by creating in vivo and systematic desensitization scenarios, and watched phobic reactions decrease so that the former terror associated with those situations turns into a whisper.

In other words, Exposure Therapy often works because I apply it to those who have the highest chances of responding well to it, and I don’t recommend it for those who have a low chance of a extinguishing that fear response using Exposure Therapy alone.

To give you an idea of what Exposure Therapy is like, and why guided Exposure Therapy might be of help to you if you have a phobia that you’d like to seek treatment for, read on for my personal experiences with Exposure Therapy.

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