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J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 1983 Sep;14(3):203-7.

The relative efficacy of imaginal and in vivo desensitization in the treatment of agoraphobia.

Abstract

Claims have often been made that in vivo procedures are generally superior to imaginal approaches in the clinical management of anxiety and avoidance behavior. Such claims seem unwarranted in that the relevant clinical research appears only to have involved either flooding or rapid exposure techniques. The aim of the present study was specifically to examine the relative efficacy of imaginal and in vivo desensitization in the clinical management of debilitating phobia. Six agoraphobic women participated in the study which employed a multiple-baseline single-subject methodology. Severity of phobia was repeatedly assessed on measures of avoidance behavior and subjective distress, and subjects self-monitored pulse rate. Significant reductions in phobic behavior were observed during both imaginal and in vivo desensitization, but neither treatment was found to be more effective than the other. Moreover, the same pattern of results was observed for both treatment and generalization settings. As such, the results do not support previous suggestions that in vivo exposure is necessarily superior to imaginal desensitization in the treatment of agoraphobia. Encouraging follow-up results provided some confirmation of previous findings indicating the effectiveness of self-management procedures in the long-term control of agoraphobia.

PMID:
6139389
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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