Exposure therapy is a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) used to treat anxiety-related disorders. Exposure therapy techniques aim to help the client deliberately and repeatedly approach (i.e., be “exposed to”) unrealistic fears in order to learn that these situations are not, in fact, as threatening or intolerable as anticipated. The treatment was developed in the tradition of behaviorism and is a direct application of conditioning and learning principles. Today, most cognitive behavioral treatments for anxiety include at least some exposure exercises, sometimes referred to as behavioral experiments.

By approaching feared cues without escape or avoidance, clients are provided the opportunity to reevaluate faulty or exaggerated beliefs about the danger associated with these cues. Depending on the focus of the client’s anxiety, the target ...

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