Free Yourself From Anxiety
Common sense seems to hold that we can best overcome fears by facing them head-on. Admonitions like, “If you get bucked off a horse, you’ve got to get back up,” encourage us not to give up due to fear. Mounds of research and years of clinical experience bear out the effectiveness and long-lasting benefits of facing fear through exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is any treatment that encourages the systematic confrontation of the feared situation, thoughts, images, or objects to reduce the fearful reaction.
The idea of facing our fears can make perfect sense when we sit in a friendly office and talk about them. Most clients’ anxiety will spike a bit when considering the prospect of facing their fears, but they can usually calm themselves when talking about it in the planning stages. Even therapists don’t know how they will react until they face the things that trigger fear. Counselors study the research behind exposure therapy, but the prospect of deliberately spiking an anxiety reaction in a client makes them a little anxious. After all, they got into professional counseling to reduce human suffering, not increasing it.
In exposure therapy, the client remains in control of the fears they face. Counselors can work together with clients toward freedom from the things that restrict enjoyment from the activities and relationships that make life meaningful.
David Barnhart, EdD
Licensed Counselor Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor