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Flooding is a psychotherapeutic technique used to treat phobia. It works by exposing the patient to their painful memories,[1] with the goal of reintegrating their repressed emotions with their current awareness. Flooding was invented by psychologist Thomas Stampfl in 1967.[2] It still is used in behavior therapy today.

'Flooding' is an effective form of treatment for phobias amongst other psychopathologies. It works on the principles of classical conditioning—a form of Pavlov's classical conditioning—where patients change their behaviors to avoid negative stimuli. According to Pavlov, we learn through associations, so if we have a phobia it is because we associate the feared object or stimulus with something negative.

A psychotherapist using flooding to treat a phobia might expose a patient to vast amounts of the feared stimulus, hence if the patient suffered from arachnophobia, the therapist might lock them in a room full of spiders.[1] While the patient would initially be very anxious, the mind cannot stay anxious forever. When nothing bad happens the patient begins to calm down and so from that moment on associate a feeling of calm with the previously feared object.[1]

Psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe (1973) carried out an experiment which demonstrated flooding. He took a girl who was scared of cars, locked her in a car and drove her around for hours. Initially the girl was hysterical but she eventually calmed down when she realised that her situation was safe. From then on she associated a sense of ease with cars.

Flooding therapy is not for every individual, and the therapist will discuss with the patient the levels of anxiety they are prepared to endure during the session.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Sundel, Martin; Stone-Sundel, Sandra (2005). Behavior Change in the Human Services. SAGE. pp. 241–242. ISBN 9780761988700. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GNtp3xtSGC8C&pg=PA241&dq=Flooding+phobia&lr=&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a#PPA241,M1.  
  2. ^ Leitenberg, Harold (1990). Handbook of Social and Evaluation Anxiety. Springer. pp. 300–302. ISBN 9780306434389. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=q6GpO2ZrltgC&pg=PA300&dq=Flooding+phobia&lr=&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a#PPA302,M1.  
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