We’re habituated to think of therapy as something that happens in an office. For most of us, the first thing that pops into our mind when we hear the word ‘therapist’ is probably ‘couch’. Therapists put a lot of effort into designing offices that are warm, comfortable and inviting. There are good reasons why this is so. Since Freud, psychology has been based on using conversation to help people delve into their mind. The therapist’s office is tailor made for eliciting communication from even the most taciturn individuals.
As psychology advances out of infancy, though, our focus has shifted from helping clients achieve an abstract understanding of what is going on in their heads, to making the concrete changes that help them lead happier lives. This has led us to explore new possibilities in taking therapy out of the office and into the real world.
How does exposure therapy work?
Let us start with a common case: someone who has an irrational fear of many foods, which is impacting their health or making it hard to function socially. Therapy for this problem consists of helping the person understand their fears, then training him or her to face them, step by step. Starting with a small taste, the therapist will help the client to the point where he or she can be presented with any dish and heartily tuck in.
The problem often comes when the client tries to apply these lessons in everyday life. The therapist’s office is a wonderfully supportive environment, but the real world often isn’t! All the tools and techniques that he or she has worked so hard to build up can vanish in an instant, and a plate of salmon and broccoli turns back into an impossible challenge. This can be very demoralizing. Therapists often try to bridge the gap by setting homework, but there is a simpler way. Instead of practicing in an artificial environment, go out and learn them in the places they need to be used.
A typical example of exposure therapy for food anxiety would consist of going with a therapist to a restaurant and working through the process of selecting an option from the menu, trying it, and then discussing what to have for dessert. The client is learning the strategies needed to develop a healthy relationship with food in a setting where he or she can use it again and again. The skills are internalized in a way that is both more profound and easier to apply.
Find out more about the exciting possibilities exposure therapy offers for making concrete, lasting change in your life, or that of your children. Contact Dr. Jennifer Lish for information about exposure therapy in Worcester, MA.Please share this post!