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Parents Ease Teens’ Anxieties by Becoming “Exposure Coaches”



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Teens with phobias and social anxiety seem to make more progress when their parents learn techniques to expose them to their fears gradually, instead of just avoiding situations.

[R]esearchers at Mayo, Virginia Tech and other institutions are finding that slowly exposing children to the things they are anxious about, at an early point in treatment, can be highly effective in helping them overcome anxiety. Sometimes, it doesn’t require a long course of therapy.

Dr. Ollendick developed an intensive three-hour session to help children overcome phobias such as riding in elevators or encountering a dog. His intensive approach has been shown to be more effective than treatments that emphasize education about phobias but not exposure to a feared object or situation. Therapists work with parents to reinforce and maintain what the child has learned and to schedule follow-up calls.

In the past, exposure therapy was used later in treatment after employing other techniques such as relaxation skills and “cognitive restructuring.”

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