Exposure Therapy is a type of therapy that is used to treat some mental health conditions, usually conditions that involve trauma or anxiety.

It is best associated with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, though also works well for Anxiety conditions like Phobias or Social Anxiety.

In this article, we take a look at 3 different examples of where exposure therapy could work.

Exposure Therapy can treat many different conditions

What is Exposure Therapy?

Exposure Therapy: Exposure Therapy – also known as Desensitisation – is commonly used for cases that involve either traumas or phobias. This type of therapy involves an individual being gradually exposed to their fear/trauma. A therapist can help set up a program for this. Over time, the individual will gradually become accustomed to their problem – though this takes time. The eventual aim is to overcome the problem. Relaxation methods may also be taught as part of this therapy.

Example One: Social Anxiety Disorder

Craig is a 19-year old student who attends a local University. He has been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder – with Craig feeling petrified and overwhelmed by social situations.

As Craig is attending University, he will need to do some public speaking for presentations. But Craig is reluctant to ever speak in class – even such as asking to use the bathroom.

He is in constant fear of saying or doing something that ends in embarrassment. Exposure therapy will teach Craig some calming techniques to begin with.

The main part of the therapy will involve Craig being gradually exposed to his fear. He starts by imagining himself meeting others and mingling with course mates. He does this while breathing calmly.

Then he will be asked to speak to others in-person, helping him to feel calmer in social situations. Body language and eye contact will be two other areas focused on.

Example Two: Phobia

Katie is a 28-year old woman who has a phobia of dogs. Whenever she sees a dog, she gets incredibly anxious – she fears being bitten, but also has trouble breathing, gets sweaty palms, and her heart beats fast.

Katie is treated with Exposure therapy. At first, she is given information on deep breathing techniques and other strategies to focus on calming down.

Katie is tasked with imagining that she is walking past a dog that is on a leash. Katie will then be asked to make this become a reality by finding somewhere that has many dogs roam, like a local park.

The therapist will tell Katie to remember to relax her muscles and imagine herself on a beautiful beach – away from dogs.

The idea is then for gradual steps to be made. The next level of exposure might be to visit a friend who has a dog. Eventually, Katie will get to the stage where she is asked to visit a park by herself, and walk unaided past dogs not on a leash.

This will take some time, but it is the aim for Katie to get to the point where she is comfortable around dogs.

Example Three: Post-traumatic stress disorder

Marcus is a 44-year old man who left the army on medical grounds two years ago. He initially struggled to find work, but now has a job working in a nearby school.

On his way to school each day, Marcus walks past a skate park where people crash around. Hearing the skateboards crash against the surface after jumps reminds Marcus of active duty. The noise triggers flashbacks.

Marcus has this problem every day, and after visiting his GP, is diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorder. Marcus gets help for his symptoms, with Exposure therapy selected for him.

At first, deep breathing and calming techniques are taught, with a focus on helping Marcus calm down at times of anxiety. The therapist will encourage Marcus to imagine himself driving past the skate park, then cycling, and then walking.

While doing this, Marcus will be breathing slowly and deeply, and relaxing his muscles. He will eventually work his way to the point where he is able to walk past the skate park with a family member, with the ultimate aim for Marcus to walk past the skate park at ease.

As in the other cases, this process will take place over a long period of time, but the result is achievable. Hopefully Marcus will get to a point where his symptoms are behind him.


As seen above, it is possible for Exposure therapy to work successfully. It is a type of therapy that typically takes a while to work, but it can be done.

It won’t work for everyone however – but fortunately, there are a huge range of other types of talking therapies that serve as excellent alternatives.

See Also


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