Exposure therapy is an evidence-based behavioral therapy method that aims to help clients face their fear and reduce the anxiety it causes. Instead of avoiding a stressful situation or a scary object, an individual learns to engage with them without significant emotional distress. According to Gupta (2021), “exposure therapy can help treat several conditions, including phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder” (para. 5). It can be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Nevertheless, some counselors avoid using exposure therapy due to its several associated challenges.
In particular, exposure therapy requires a high level of expertise in order to make treatment safe and effective. It is critical not to worsen the patient’s condition, particularly when dealing with individuals with PTSD. If not implemented correctly, therapy can aggravate symptoms, meaning that more harm than good is done. Such outcomes contradict the principles of non-maleficence and beneficence, which are central to the counseling code of ethics (Clark, 2019). The well-being and mental health of the client should be regarded as a priority. Therefore, many therapists are concerned with exposure therapy’s ethical aspects and risks.
Furthermore, it is challenging to support the client’s commitment and maintain the long-term effect of treatment. As Gupta (2021) states, symptom recurrence is frequent if treatment is finished prematurely. The counselor must be well-trained to guide the patient and ensure long-lasting therapeutic outcomes. Another challenging aspect of exposure therapy is the difference between simulated conditions and reality (Gupta, 2021). An individual may demonstrate sufficient coping skills during therapy sessions but have difficulty applying them in the real world. Therefore, despite the effectiveness of exposure therapy, many specialists avoid implementing it widely.
Clark, D. A. (2019). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD and its subtypes (2nd ed.). Guilford Publications.
Gupta, S. (2021). What is exposure therapy? Verywell Mind. Web.