Simon is 56 years old he has a severe phobia of spiders

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Simon is 56 years old, he has a severe phobia of spiders, named arachnophobia. He attends clinic at the local NHS trust for help on how to overcome his fear. Simon faces Emotional characteristics and has had several anxiety attacks in public before due to the severity of the phobia, he also avoids any situation involving spiders, this a behavioural characteristic, for example he cannot sing nursery rhymes or read stories to his daughter if they have spiders in, Halloween also encourages this fear and he cannot walk past the local toy shop when decorated for the occasion as there are plastic spiders on display. Case Report:The behavioural approach looks into the acquisition of phobias and fears through the role of conditioning. The two-process model was developed by Mowrer (1947) to explain how phobias are acquired and maintained. The phobia is initially learned through classical conditioning, individuals may create a phobia if they associate something with a traumatic event, for example Simon may have been bitten by a spider when he was younger and has since associated all spiders with that traumatic experience, generating his extreme phobia.

The model then states that phobias are maintained through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, in Simon’s case this is his avoidance, when he avoids certain situations involving spiders such as the shop windows on Halloween he is rewarded with the relief and comfort that he isn’t going to see any spiders, this then reinforces his behaviour of avoiding all situations with spiders and the phobia is maintained as he will not face spiders, he would rather have the comfort when avoiding than the fear when confronting. A strength of the behaviourist approach when looking at phobias is that there is real life application as the view has led to many effective behavioural treatments for phobias. There is also supporting evidence of the two-process model as individuals often remember a traumatic event that has led to them developing their phobia, however this is not always the case as people may have repressed the experience or simply do not remember because they were too young. There is also the idea that different phobias have different processes and could have developed through observing others, this is the social learning theory of phobias.

The social learning theory is the learning through role models and imitating others behaviour. Phobias can be passed through families simply because the children internalise and imitate their role models’ phobias, the children are also more likely to imitate the behaviour of a same-sex parent. Simon may have had a male role model with a severe fear of spiders and that has impacted his view of spiders. However it may work the other way also, he may pass it on to his children, he is showing them his severe phobia of spiders and the extreme lengths he goes to, to simply avoid them, this may impact his children and they could eventually develop the same fear at the same severity. Cognitive approach- mental processes.Discussion:There are multiple treatments to help phobias, many approaches developed alternative methods. Systematic desensitisation is one of the treatments developed by the behaviourist approach, this method based on classical conditioning, aims to counter-condition by replacing the fear response with a relaxation response. There are steps to this process, firstly the patient is taught how to have control over breathing, muscle tensioning or meditation.

Secondly the patient would build a fear hierarchy, at the top would be the stimuli that creates the least amount of fear, this would then gradually build to the stimuli they most fear and thirdly the individual would work through their hierarchy starting with the stimuli that causes the least fear, once the individual does not feel the fear anymore they move onto the next stage in the hierarchy, if they do however feel uncomfortable again they can just go back through the stages and practice relaxation techniques. . Simon would create a hierarchy based on his fear of spiders, the hierarchy may include the hurdles he faces such as reading a story with a spider in or looking at the decorations on Halloween, this treatment is a gradual process that eases people into the transition of overcoming phobias. This therapy is effective for example Barlow et al (2002) discovered that there was a success rate of between 60 and 90 per cent for specific types of phobias when individuals stayed focused, actually committed to the phobias and stuck to the system, showing the effectiveness in real life situations. This therapy can also be used on children whereas other therapies may be too intense or traumatic.

The behaviourist approach developed another form of behavioural therapy named flooding, this however is very intense and the opposite to systematic desensitisation. This therapy aims to overwhelm the individual’s senses with their phobia to show them that they cause no harm to them. This is a repetitive process and extremely intense, no build up or gradual processing. This technique is a very quick and effective process, individuals aim towards ‘extinction’ the learning that the stimulus they are scared of is harmless. Simon’s senses would be ‘flooded’ if he was to use this method, he would be shown images and videos of spiders, look at and hold spiders straight away and all at once. Number of sessions of these types of treatments varies based on the severity of the phobia and is complete once the individual’s needs and therapeutic needs are met.

This treatment has been proven effective, it does have negative views. Firstly, it can be extremely traumatic for some patients and may even worsen in some cases, another negative would be that it cannot treat all phobias, some are too complex or for example, the phobia may have cognitive aspects rather than just behavioural.There are also negative aspects to the use of behavioural therapies as a whole, one would be ‘Symptom substitution’ may occur, because the behavioural therapies focus on the symptom over the cause of the phobia, they just want to change the individuals behaviour, this however could lead to the development of a different disorder, the psychoanalytical approach criticise the behavioural techniques for disregarding the unconscious mind and the repressed memories that may be the original cause Cognitive behavioural therapy can also be used, a talking therapy to try and change the way people think and behave.