Exposure Therapy for Anxiety and What to Expect

What is Exposure Therapy?

A type of behavioral therapy called exposure therapy is frequently used to help people with phobias and anxiety disorders. It incorporates a person confronting their fears, whether they are real or imagined, in the safe space while being guided by a trained professional therapist. It has been proven to be successful and may be performed on individuals of all ages.

Knowing more about exposure therapy can help you decide on a course of treatment and can also help you be prepared for what to anticipate.

How does it Work?

The main goal for exposure therapy is to actually expose you to the very situation, event or object that triggers anxiety, fear or panic. Exposure therapy is provided to you in small controlled doses until eventually each controlled exposure slowly starts to decrease the amount of anxiety and panic you experience to that trigger. You discuss how this will happen with your therapist before you begin to ensure you are ready and the exposure intensity is right for you.

Within the exposure therapy method, there are various techniques that can be used to accomplish your goal:

  • In vivo exposure- This technique uses direct exposure to the trigger by a.
  • Imaginal exposure- This technique uses imaginative exposure to the trigger by envisioning the trigger in vivid detail by using your own imagination.
  • Virtual reality exposure- This technique uses virtual reality to exposure you to your trigger in a real way without actually facing reality.
  • Interoceptive exposure- This technique utilizes purposefully inducing the symptoms of your anxiety without exposing you to the actual object, situation, or event that triggers you.

What Type of Anxiety can it Help?

Generalized Anxiety
Both imaginal exposure and in-person exposure can be used as treatments for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), however in-person exposure is less frequently used. Both imaginal exposure and cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) were more effective at improving overall functioning in GAD patients than relaxation techniques and nondirective therapy.

Social Anxiety
Individuals with social anxiety are frequently treated with in-person exposure. This can include engaging in social interactions and not avoiding particular activities. Exposure therapy combined with or without cognitive therapy may help to lessen social anxiety symptoms.

Driving Anxiety
People who have a phobia of driving have benefited from virtual reality exposure therapy. It has been proven beneficial in lowering driving anxiety, although further investigation is still needed on this particular phobia. Exposure therapy might need to be combined with other treatments.

Public Speaking
Adults and teenagers who are anxious about public speaking have been found to benefit from virtual reality exposure treatment. Some people have even claimed that after a 3-hour session, their anxiety had significantly decreased.

Separation Anxiety
One of the most common anxiety disorders in children is separation anxiety disorder. The best treatment for it is thought to be exposure therapy. This involves exposing the child to feared circumstances while simultaneously promoting adaptable thoughts and behaviors. The anxiety seems to fade over time, through this exposure.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is frequently treated with exposure and response prevention (ERP), which makes use of both in person and imaginal exposure. Both during therapy sessions and as homework, you would be exposed to in person situations (part of reaction avoidance is refraining from obsessive behavior). Instead of engaging in actions that would reduce anxiety, a person waits for it to go away naturally. Imaginal exposure is utilized when in person exposure is too difficult or impractical.

Panic Disorder

The treatment for panic disorder frequently involves interoceptive exposure therapy. Interoceptive exposure and face-to-face settings, i.e., working with a trained professional, were associated with higher rates of success and people were more receptive to the treatment.

Exposure therapy is for you! Now what?

Working with a therapist who has received training in the safe and effective use of exposure therapy is crucial when using certain types of exposure therapy to prevent unnecessary distress or harm to your mental health.

If you are ready to begin the journey of overcoming your anxiety with exposure therapy then we are here for you. At New Vision Counseling and Consulting we have a team of caring therapists who are highly trained in helping you work through anxiety and create a life you want to be a part of. The natural next step is to call us at (405) 921-7776. We hope to meet you soon!