Systematic desensitization  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Systematic desensitization, also known as graduated exposure therapy, is a type of cognitive behavior therapy developed by South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe. It is used in the field of clinical psychology to help many people effectively overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders that are based on classical conditioning, and shares the same elements of both cognitive psychology and applied behavior analysis. When used by the behavior analysts, it is based on radical behaviorism and functional analysis, as it incorporates counterconditioning principles, such as meditation (a private behavior) and breathing (which is a public behavior). From the cognitive perspective, however, cognitions and feelings trigger motor actions.

The process of systematic desensitization occurs in three steps. The first step of systematic desensitization is the identification of an anxiety inducing stimulus hierarchy. The second step is the learning of relaxation or coping techniques. When the individual has been taught these skills, he or she must use them in the third step to react towards and overcome situations in the established hierarchy of fears. The goal of this process is for the individual to learn how to cope with, and overcome the fear in each step of the hierarchy.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Systematic desensitization" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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