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Behav Res Ther. 2003 Nov;41(11):1337-53.

Active-imaginal exposure: examination of a new behavioral treatment for cynophobia (dog phobia).

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Life Skills Support Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA.


The aims of this study were to investigate exposure-based treatments for cynophobia (dog phobia) and to test a newly developed hybrid imaginal exposure treatment that we have named active imaginal exposure. The treatment introduces an in vivo coping component to imaginal exposure whereby the patient physically performs coping responses to an imagined feared stimulus. Eighty-two participants meeting DSM-IV criteria for specific phobia (animal subtype) were randomly assigned to one of three 30-min. treatments: (a) active-imaginal exposure (AI), (b) imaginal exposure alone (IE), or (c) graduated in vivo exposure (IV). Participants completed a behavioral approach test at pre, post, and four-week follow-up. Significant pre- to posttreatment improvement was observed in all three treatment conditions. Response rates at posttreatment were 51.9, 62.1, and 73.1% for the IE, AI, and IV groups respectively. Likewise, effect sizes at posttreatment were 0.76, 1.41, and 1.55 for the IE, AI, and IV groups respectively. Although in the predicted direction, the between group differences were not significant. A similar pattern of results was observed at follow-up. Further, safety behavior utilization during treatment was associated with less improvement--particularly in the two imaginal treatment conditions. Exposure treatments of dog phobia appear feasible and effective in reducing phobic fear and avoidance associated with dog phobia. Furthermore, preliminary evidence suggests that our active-imaginal exposure treatment may be a viable alternative to in vivo exposure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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