Systematic desensitization

systematic desensitization

A type of behaviour therapy for eliminating phobias or anxieties: the patient and therapist construct a list of imagined scenes eliciting the phobia, ranked from least to most anxiety-producing; the patient then is trained in deep muscle relaxation, and is repeatedly asked to imagine himself in the presence of the least anxiety-producing scene on the list until he feels fully relaxed while doing so; the procedure is repeated for each scene on the list until the patient develops the capacity to feel relaxed with any of the anxiety-producing scenes; real life scenes are then substituted for the imagined scenes.

Synonym: reciprocal inhibition.

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