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Exam technique advice

Example Answer for Question 18 Paper 1: A Level Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA

Section D – Psychopathology: Q18 [6 Marks]

There are two behavioural therapies used to treat phobias: systematic desensitisation and flooding. Systematic desensitisation uses counter-conditioning to help patients ‘unlearn’ their phobias, by eliciting another response, relaxation instead of fear. A patient works with their therapist to create a fear hierarchy, ranking the phobic situation from least to most terrifying. The patient is also taught relaxation strategies (e.g. breathing techniques) to help them remain calm when exposed to their fear. Finally, the patient works through their fear hierarchy, starting at the bottom, while trying to remain relaxed at each stage. According to systematic desensitisation, two emotional states cannot exist at the same time, a theory known as reciprocal inhibition and eventually relaxation will replace the fear.

Flooding is another behavioural therapy which, rather than exposing a person to their phobic stimulus gradually, exposes the individual to the most anxiety-inducing stimulus immediately. With flooding, a person is unable to avoid (negatively reinforce) their phobia and through continuous exposure, anxiety levels eventually decrease. Since the option of employing avoidant behaviour is removed, extinction will soon because anxiety is a time limited, and as a result, the fear will eventually subside.

Please Note: These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam.

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