The term exposure therapy sounds intimidating and possibly dangerous. If given the option between choosing a treatment called exposure therapy, which sounds scary, and choosing something that sounds much safer and more welcoming, it makes sense that someone would choose the safer option. So, what is exposure therapy and why should anyone choose the seemingly dangerous option? Clinical psychologist, Dr. Carmen McLean, wrote an article in PsychReg discussing the common myths about exposure therapy. Dr. McLean describes exposure therapy as a type of cognitive behavior therapy in which people systematically face feared situations during and in between therapy sessions. Exposure therapy is incredibly well supported by research as an effective treatment for anxiety and other mental health issues. If this is the case, why is it not more widely utilized?
Let’s discuss the myths, in no particular order, related to this highly effective treatment.
Myth: Exposure therapy is too much to handle
Dr. McLean pointed out that exposure therapy might temporarily increase feelings of distress. However, the increase in distress usually dissipates with time. It is helpful to remember that if someone is seeking mental health treatment, they are already in distress. Therefore, exposure therapy is not introducing new distress into someone’s life but rather it is providing fast and safe relief.
Myth: Exposure therapy doesn’t work with complex issues
Dr. McLean noted that research supports the use of exposure therapy in people wit co-occuring disorders, suicidal thoughts, active psychosis, and substance use issues. Exposure therapy, done by a trained professional, is a safe and effective treatment of people with a variety of complex issues.
Myth: People need a lot of time and preparation before beginning
Dr. McLean pointed out that people need to understand the treatment rationale for engaging in exposure therapy and they need a well-trained professional. However, time consuming preparation before beginning is not necessary.
Myth: Exposure therapy is overly rigid and impersonal
Dr. McLean argued that exposure therapy is a collaborative process that is highly adaptable and tailored toward the unique situation of each individual. Exposure exercises are collaboratively planned by the therapist and the client.
Exposure therapy is a highly effective treatment. If you are interested in learning how it can be done via telehealth (online therapy) to address a variety of mental health issues, schedule a free consultation.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.