What is Exposure Therapy? Hint: It Works Like a Vaccine

What is exposure therapy? It's based on the Law of Habituation that says: The more you do something, the less you fear it.

What is exposure therapy? Careful and gradual exposure

Careful and gradual exposure to a fearful situation works like a vaccination. A vaccine exposes your immune system to a virus in a small dose so your body can learn to manage the virus. With a phobia, careful and gradual exposure to the fearful situation helps you desensitize and gradually overcome a phobia. Exposure works for a variety of phobias such as agoraphobia and specific phobias (public speaking, social anxiety, elevators, flying, bridges, spiders, etc.)

What is exposure therapy? A careful treatment plan

We recommend working with a sensitive, cognitive-behavioral anxiety specialist who can tailor a program specifically to your needs, and help you desensitize your nervous system in the most effective way for you. This lets you learn and practice fear management techniques at your own pace.

To desensitize your nervous system and overcome fear, your brain needs to see you managing fear successfully. Once your brain starts to see you managing fear, the automatic mechanisms in your brain get re-trained to respond differently in those situations (a process called desensitization). Taking baby steps keeps your fear from being overwhelming, and lets you prove to yourself that you can successfully manage fear. Each step is tailored and manageable for you. Each small success builds confidence for the next step.

Where to find exposure therapy?

You can learn fear management techniques​ at Anxiety Clinics and in anxiety therapy/support groups. There are also virtual programs. These programs use a very sensitive and gradual approach to teach your nervous system how to react differently to a phobic situation. They use cognitive-behavioral techniques that carefully and gradually expose you to the fearful situation...just enough to desensitize your nervous system and overcome the fear.

In essence, to overcome fear, we recommend learning and practicing fear management techniques before a real fearful situation happens. So by the time the real situation happens, you're ready to handle it.​

Where to find exposure therapists

Check out the articles on how to find a therapist and finding treatment centers and online anxiety help.