Fears are a normal part of life, but when they start to overwhelm or interfere with your life, they may be indicating something more serious. Specific fears may indicate a phobia. There are treatments available for all types of phobias, one of which is systematic desensitization.
What Is Phobia?
What Is This Form Of Desensitization?
Systematic desensitization is about exposing the individual to whatever it is that they are afraid of. At the same time, however, there is a relaxation exercise used or the individual is engaged in some type of activity that causes them to relax. These two things combined help the individual to stop associating whatever they are afraid of with fear.
The process is quite extensive, especially when the fear is more intense or has been going on for a very long time. Systematic desensitization is a process that starts slowly and is facilitated by a therapist trained in this sort of therapy.
Laying It Out
It's the job of the therapist to help encourage them and to push them to reach slightly beyond their comfort zone but pushing them too far and too fast could backfire in trying to overcome the phobia. This is why the relaxation techniques are learned and why the therapist will encourage their use, throughout the process. Learning to relax while looking at a picture of a dog would be part of that first step, then learning to relax while watching that dog on the TV and so on.
Why You Need It
You may wonder why you even need this type of treatment, or you may wonder what's so bad about having a phobia. Everyone is afraid of something, right? That's true, but most people have what are considered fears, rather than phobias. That means the fear doesn't interfere dramatically with their everyday life. A fear of spiders means the individual does not like them and doesn't want to be around them, but if they see a spider, they can react more rationally.
Someone with a phobia does not have a rational response when exposed to their fear. They may take extreme steps to avoiding even the potential for exposure to spiders by insisting their clothing is stored in vacuum bags or is just fresh from the washer or dryer prior to putting it on. They may require their home to be sprayed for insects many times more than is necessary.
Overcoming a phobia can be extremely important to your life because it lets you do the things that you enjoy without having to plan around that fear. Someone with a phobia of dogs, for instance, must plan their entire life around trying to avoid dogs. It can greatly influence the things that you want to do, like taking your children to the park or visiting certain family members. Overcoming that phobia allows you to live the life you want to live.
If you find yourself struggling with a phobia and you're not sure what to do, the first thing is to reach out for professional help. You can find a therapist who is ready and willing to help you. You just have to know where to look. Searching online will help you find therapists in your area, and if traveling to an office isn't something you want to do, you can find therapists who practice online.
BetterHelp is a great option for professional mental health help online. BetterHelp has a team of licensed professional therapists who can connect with you via text, phone, and video to help you address any issue you may be having.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does counseling help phobias?
However, medically reviewed papers show that counseling is highly effective in treating phobias. Psychotherapy is a highly potent way of treating phobias and is more effective than any other method available today. It is even more effective than trauma-informed resource therapy. A trained therapist can use various strategies (including systematic desensitization) to help people living with a phobia change their beliefs about the experience, person, object, or situation they fear. Counseling helps individuals dealing with simple phobias and specific phobias or a panic disorder manage their emotional response to the thing they fear and regain their mental health.
There are two main treatment options that counselors use for phobias. The most popular are:
Once the therapist feels confident in your mental health and ability to use relaxation techniques, they will start the process of systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization involves gradually exposing you to situations that will trigger your phobia. The process of systematic desensitization is broken down from the least frightening phobia-triggering situations to the most frightening phobia-triggering situations. Throughout this systematic desensitization experience, your therapist will continue to help you protect your mental health and stay relaxed in these situations. A key detail is that your therapist will ensure that every step you take is taken voluntarily.
The aim of the systematic desensitization process is not to eliminate your fear; rather, systematic desensitization is meant to build up your courage and confidence in your ability to deal with your phobia. By helping you increasing your competence, you subconsciously begin to let go of your fear, and confidence begins to set in. This method of treating phobias involves gradual systematic desensitization.
While cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) usually uses the same methods of systematic desensitization used in exposure therapy and resources therapy, CBT is more concerned with the beliefs a person holds in relation to the phobia they experience. It attempts to dismantle any thought patterns you may have developed around your phobia that do not stem from reality.