Skip to main content

What Is Exposure Therapy?

Exposure is an effective evidence-based treatment for fear. This information handout describes the key principles of Exposure Therapy. Clients who are nervous about attempting exposure will find it helpful to understand the theory behind the approach.

Exposure as a therapy procedure is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety. What Is Exposure Therapy? is an information sheet describing the purpose and mechanism of exposure therapy. It includes a simple clinical example to help patients understand how fears come about and how exposure can be used to treat fear. This information sheet uses a memory ‘retrieval competition’ (Brewin, 2006) account to explain exposure – this is consistent with other accounts (including classical conditioning explanations) but does not require knowledge of learning theory.

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:

  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training
  • Abramowitz, J. S., Deacon, B. J., Whiteside, S. P. H. (2011). Exposure therapy for anxiety: principles and practice. New York, Guilford.
  • Brewin, C. R. (2006). Understanding cognitive behaviour therapy: A retrieval competition account. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(6), 765-784.
  • Weidech & Witten (eds). (2012). Exposure therapy: rethinking the model – refining the method.
  • James G. Taylor (1897-1973) is credited with some of the earliest use of exposure therapy in the 1950’s, but apparently published little of his work
  • Salter (1949) originally described systematic desensitization
  • Wolpe (1958) describes systematic desensitization in more detail

Download Options

Full pack

Includes:

Description, instructions, references, worksheet, case examples

Quick access

Includes:

Blank worksheet

Translation Template

Why?

Translate this worksheet into your language

White-label

Includes

Editable worksheet in PowerPoint format

Languages available

Sign Up To The Free Newsletter

Early access – get informed about the latest resources first

Research summaries – stay informed about developments in therapy research

No spam – newsletters delivered monthly, we won’t share your details with anyone else

Confidence assured – unsubscribe at any time