What are the advantages and disadvantages of systematic desensitization? (pp. 503-504)

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of systematic desensitization? (pp. 503-504)

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of systematic desensitization? (pp. 503-504)

Answer & Explanation (1)

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Imagination is easier to face than reality but it cannot act as a substitute for the effect of reality.

Explanation
Systematic desensitization is used as a psychological treatment for clients who want to overcome a specific phobia [fear or anxiety towards specific stimuli].

In this method, clients are asked to practice relaxation techniques [muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and focusing attention] while the therapist makes them visualize their specific fear-inducing stimulus through verbal instructions. The therapist records their fear levels in each session and increases the intensity [or frequency and duration] of the specific stimulus in the visualization instructions. After multiple sessions, when the therapist records low fear levels in them while they visualize the highest intensity of the fear-inducing stimulus, the treatment is completed.

The advantages of the systematic desensitization method are as follows:

Systematic desensitization is easy to execute and consumes less time because the therapist only has to explain an imaginary phobia-inducing stimulus to the client while sitting in their room. For instance, it is convenient to let the client visualize a specific height rather than going to a building to perform the relaxation techniques on each floor. On the part of the client as well, it is much easier to imagine the fear-inducing stimulus than experiencing it in real life.
It is practically not feasible for a therapist to arrange fear-producing stimuli for real exposure to the client [as practiced in in-vivo desensitization]. For instance, if a person has a fear of fire [pyrophobia], a therapist cannot deliberately ignite a fire in their clinic as it can disturb other clients and can be dangerous. As systematic desensitization is based on mental imagery, such issues do not arise.
The disadvantages of the systematic desensitization method are as follows:

Systematic desensitization cannot be generalized for all phobia-inducing conditions because visualization might not be a substitute for the actual stimulus experience. For instance, when a client looks down from the top of a building, they might not be able to effectively control the fear through relaxation methods, which they practiced while visualizing such heights.
The clients are prone to face difficulty in imagining abstract stimuli, such as texture, relative size, temperature, and bodily sensations that might occur during a real encounter. Consequently, solely being dependent on visualizations is often ineffective.
Verified Answer
The following are the advantages of systematic desensitization:

It is convenient and less time-consuming because sessions can be conducted in the therapist's chamber.
There is no difficulty in arranging any kind of fear/anxiety stimulus as it relies solely on the visualization of the stimulus instead of encountering it in reality. As a result, it becomes more convenient for the client.
The following are the disadvantages of systematic desensitization:

The results of the treatment might not be highly effective during actual phobia encounters.
It is difficult to visualize certain stimuli in a gradient manner [for instance, darkness].

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