Systematic Desensitization with Children and Adolescents

Description of the Strategy

Since the 1950s, systematic desensitization has been a primary behavioral intervention used for a variety of fearand anxiety-based difficulties experienced by children and adolescents. Developed by Joseph Wolpe, systematic desensitization is premised on the assumption that fear responses cannot simultaneously exist in the presence of a competing response. This basic principle is referred to as reciprocal inhibition. In essence, responses that are incompatible or inhibitory to anxiety (e.g., relaxation, a state of calm) are created and compete with the fear response. Because of their incompatibility, both responses cannot coexist, and the anxiety decreases. Through repeated pairings of the inhibitory response with the anxiety-provoking stimuli, the connection between the feared stimuli and the anxiety response is diminished, a process known ...

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