Background A rat, when it sees a picture of a cat, gets scared. However, using classical conditioning, the fear of the cat can be diminished if the rat is given food. Joseph Wolpe noticed this reciprocal inhibition and came up with the theory of systematic desensitization.
Methods Wolpe performed systematic desensitization on 39 cases, randomly chosen out of 150 cases. 3 Steps – Relaxation training – Construction of anxiety hierarchy – Desensitization
Results Out of the 68 phobias treated in 39 cases, 62 (91%) were judged to be completely or partially successful. The remaining 6 (9%) were unsuccessful. The average number of sessions needed for successful treatment was 12.3.
Criticisms Psychoanalysts said Wolpe’s methods did not treat the underlying cause of the phobias, only the symptoms. (Leaking dike) Wolpe responded by showing that 25 out of the 35 cured did not relapse into phobias. How dare you question my findings?!
Conclusion Wolpe’s method of systematic desensitization is now the most prominent method to cure phobias. Systematic desensitization is effective for long periods of time. (college students suffering from fear of public speaking).