The ethics of exposure therapy for anxiety disorders



Publication Details

Deacon, B. (2012). The ethics of exposure therapy for anxiety disorders. In P. Neudeck & H. Wittchen (Eds.), Exposure Therapy: Rethinking the Model - Refining the Method (pp. 9-22). New York, United States: Springer.


Exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most empirically supported psychological treatment for the anxiety disorders. However, few therapists provide exposure therapy to their clients. Although the poor dissemination of exposure-based treatments may be partially attributable to a shortage of suitably trained therapists, exposure therapy also suffers from a "public relations problem" among practitioners who believe it to be intolerable, unsafe, and unethical. This chapter provides an overview of ethical issues and considerations relevant to the use of exposure therapy. It is argued that exposure therapy may be delivered in an ethical, tolerable, and safe manner by therapists who take reasonable steps to create a professional context. Specific strategies for avoiding potential ethical conflicts in the use of exposure-based treatments are discussed.

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