exposure therapy

The best way out of anxiety is through it. This is the core message of exposure therapy.


What is exposure therapy?

Exposure therapy is part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for anxiety. It is designed to help people overcome their fears.


During exposure therapy, a person identifies a fear they want to conquer (e.g. a fear of public speaking). Then, they come with tasks they can do to overcome that fear. They start with easy tasks first (e.g. watching public speaking videos on youtube, doing a speech by themselves at home). They then move on to tasks that are of a medium difficulty (e.g. performing a speech in front of family members) before moving on to harder tasks (e.g. performing a speech in front of strangers).


Exposure can be done in different ways. Some people start with the easy tasks first, before working up to the medium and difficult ones. Others jump straight into the difficult ones first. Neither approach is better. Although the second, and more difficult, approach tends to get results faster.


Does exposure therapy work?

Yes. Exposure therapy has been proven to be effective in treating phobias, social anxiety panic attacks, and worry. 


Exposure works because it desensitises us to our fears. It's like getting into a cold pool: it's quite shocking and uncomfortable at first, but we gradually adjust to it (if we stay in it and don't get out). Exposure can also teach us important lessons about ourselves. It teaches us that we can be brave when we chose to be. It also teaches us that we can take risks and endure discomfort when needed.


Should I do exposure therapy?

If your anxiety is restricting your life, exposure therapy can help you. You need to decide whether it is right for you though.  Identifying the pros and cons of doing exposure therapy (vs not doing it) can be a helpful first step in making a decision. From there, try to find a psychologist that can help you through the process.


About me

I am a Clinical Psychologist in North Sydney who treats anxiety using CBT and exposure. Please get in contact to learn more.

* Last updated: February 2018.

* The document is for information purposes only. Please refer to the disclaimer.