Residual Schizophrenia

Systematic Desensitization for Mental Health Disorders

Considered as a modern-day pioneer in the world of practicing behavioral therapy, Joseph Wolpe used his talents to develop a series of new therapeutic relaxation techniques, which today is known as systematic desensitization. This relaxation-based treatment was designed to treat individuals struggling with anxiety disorders, phobias, and anyone else that could benefit from reaching a state of complete relaxation.

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What Is Systematic Desensitization?

Systematic Desensitization is form of mental health disorder treatment is mostly based on psychological theories of different behaviors and learning. Various studies and research conducted over the years have shown that systematic desensitization effectively reduces anxiety-provoking responses and actions.

Deep muscle relaxation techniques and other forms of relaxation training have been proven to decrease the number of panic attacks individuals feel when putting into fearful situations.

How Does Systematic Desensitization Work?

Systematic desensitization typically begins with the patient imagining themselves in a series of fearful situations that would likely cause the patient to start feeling anxious. Then using classical conditioning and a relaxation strategy, the negative and unwanted feelings are combated in hopes of minimizing the symptoms.

Before the patients are ready to begin exposure therapy where feared real-life situations are brought into consideration, the first practices occur where the patient attempts to form new relaxation habits.

A couple of the more frequently used techniques patients implement during their relaxation training have been:

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Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Agoraphobia, types of panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and many other mental health conditions can cause someone to experience moderate to severe amounts of muscle tension. For many of these people, chronic muscle tension may seem to feel completely normal because the feeling of being completely relaxed has been absent from their life for so long. By engaging progressive muscle relaxation techniques, patients should be able to realize the distinct differences between tension and relaxing feelings throughout various muscle groups in the body.

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When a therapist engages with a patient in a systematic desensitization session, a stress-free and peaceful setting is always the first step. Being able to reach a mental and physical relaxation state is paramount for the session to be useful.

The process of systematic desensitization is often described as learning to remain in a relaxed state while visualizing trying to relive intense and stressful scenarios. The skills learned during this form of therapy treatment are taught how to be applied to real-life situations. This helps the patient learn to cope with their fears and anxiety-driven feelings that occur throughout their daily routines each day.

Treatment To Improve The Addiction Recovery Process

Certain conditions such as anxiety or fear can undoubtedly make it more challenging to achieve the goal of becoming sober and free from the addiction’s grasp. Oftentimes in society, a certain stereotype is attached to many individuals who suffer from different phobias. To many who do not have them or aware of all that they entail, the phobias sometimes seem unnecessarily exaggerated. This is unfortunate because the phobias could not be real to those experiencing them in their everyday lives.

It becomes natural for those people who struggle with phobias to live life in a way that certain triggering situations are avoided at all costs. The use of harmful substances is also becoming a more frequently used method used by individuals in an attempt to escape or cope with thoughts and feelings surrounded by fear and anxiety.

Relaxation Strategies For Anxiety Hierarchy

When making references to a fear hierarchy or anxiety hierarchy, it refers to a series of anxiety-inducing situations that progressively increase according to the patient’s rankings. The therapist then works with the patient to create and establish a hierarchical list of the specific cases that appeared to trigger an immediate sense of panic and discomfort in the patient.

While practicing the therapist’s various relaxation techniques, the patient will then again try and visualize one of the triggering situations. From this point, the therapist is able to see if the patient can maintain a relaxed state during the fearful exposure. The therapist can move on to the next level in the hierarchy when results are adequate for the therapy step. This process remains consistent until the patient no longer expresses feeling anxious thoughts or emotions when visualizing their fears.

Throughout the years, several relaxation techniques have been seen to be effective when applied to the managing of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.

A few of the common strategies include:

  • Encouragement to continually practice relaxation at home with various soothing recordings while keeping a record of feelings that are remembered during the session.
  • Tension-relaxation cycles — which are exercises where the therapist would teach the patient ways to purposefully tense up a specific muscle group for several seconds, then mindfully unwind as they then relax those muscles.

Goals of Systematic Desensitization During Recovery

The primary goals you want to achieve during systematic desensitization treatment during the addiction recovery process are identifying and breaking up the connections between specific triggers and the accompanying response of fear and anxiety. By weakening these connections, the individual can feel that they can regain control of how they react. Of course, being able to cope with the symptoms by implementing the skills and strategies that were taught instead of resorting to other forms of harmful self-medicating tactics.

Typically, some of these goals that are meant to help during recovery include:

Get Systematic Desensitization Therapy in Mission Viejo

We work hard to make Southern California Sunrise Recovery Mental Health Center in Mission Viejo a pleasant, rewarding experience for all of the Orange County residents we serve. We believe in and have seen results with systematic desensitization therapy, and we’re glad to offer it to you as a part of our therapeutic system.

Whether you’re here for your own mental health or for someone you know, know that we’re here to help our patients. Feel free to check out our other therapeutic arrangements or check out the range of conditions we treat.