Safety behaviour does not necessarily interfere with exposure therapy
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There has been much recent controversy regarding whether or not the use of safety and other neutralizing behaviour interferes with exposure-based therapy. The aim of this study was to examine the role of safety behaviour in the treatment of specific phobia. Sixty-two snake-fearful participants were randomized to a 45-min exposure session with or without the use of safety gear, such as gloves and goggles. During the treatment, participants in the safety behaviour group were able to achieve a significantly closer initial distance of approach to the snake compared to controls. When tested post-treatment without any safety gear, both groups demonstrated comparable treatment gains involving significant reductions in fearful cognitions and subjective anxiety, as well as significant improvements in distance of approach. Results suggest that reliance on safety behaviour during exposure therapy for anxiety disorders may not interfere with treatment outcome.
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