Theory-based training strategies for modifying practitioner concerns about exposure therapy
Despite the well-established efficacy of exposure therapy in the treatment of pathological anxiety, many therapists believe this treatment carries an unacceptably high risk for harm, is intolerable for patients, and poses a number of ethical quandaries. These beliefs have been shown to account for two related problems: (a) underutilization of exposure therapy, and (b) overly cautious and suboptimal delivery the treatment, which likely attenuates treatment outcomes. At present, there is little guidance for those who train exposure therapists to address these concerns. This article reviews therapist negative beliefs about exposure therapy and discusses their modification based on findings from social and cognitive psychology pertinent to belief change, including dual-processing in reasoning, the need for cognition and affect, and attitude inoculation. A number of strategies are offered for augmenting training in exposure therapy in order to promote positive beliefs about the treatment. These strategies involve: (a) therapists engaging in simulated exposure therapy exercises and presenting arguments in defense of exposure's safety, tolerability, and ethicality, and (b) training therapists using emotion-based appeals (e.g., case examples) to supplement research findings. Directions for future research on practitioner concerns about exposure therapy are discussed.