Exposure Therapy for phobias: the truth of the matter is that sooner or later you have to face whatever it is that has caused you anxiety, panic attacks or a phobic reaction of some kind. If you never face it than you can never say you have beaten anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias. If you have no intention of facing it then you may as well give up fighting it.
Does that mean exposure therapy has to be a nightmare?
No! Exposure doesn’t have to be a nightmare, and if you do your preparation properly it can be easy and even fun. When it comes to exposure you have two broad choices: graded exposure and flooding. Here I will talk about graded exposure, for an explanation of flooding click here.
Graded exposure involves meeting the fear provoking situation gradually, starting with a very mild example. But before you actually start on that mild situation in real life there are foundations to be laid.
Firstly, if you have had success with exposure before but subsequently had major setbacks it is worth reading up about dealing with past trauma. Also read about setbacks. If you deal with underlying causes exposure may be ridiculously easy, or at least be a quicker and more painless process.
Before you start Graded Exposure, and before each subsequent step, do visualization. Lots of people say they can’t visualise but in truth everybody can. And with practice it gets better and becomes not just valuable in tackling a phobia but also in every other area of your life where you are trying to achieve something, like performing well in a job interview. For a crash course in Visualization click here.