Section B - Psychopathology
09 Saira has a fear of cats. Her fear stops her from going anywhere she thinks she might see a cat.
Explain how Saira’s phobia can be treated using systematic desensitisation. [4 marks]
Suggested Answer: Saira would be taught relaxation techniques, which could include breathing techniques or mindfulness. After that, she would create a fear hierarchy, ranking her phobia of cats from the least feared situation to the most feared situation. For example, the least feared situation might be looking at a picture of a cat, whereas the most feared situation might be having a cat on her lap. Then she would be exposed her phobia, starting with the least feared situation, practising her relaxation techniques until she feels relaxed at each stage of the hierarchy. This would lead to the association between the cat (CS) and fear (CR) being broken, and the fear would be replaced with relaxation.
Exam Hint: This question was generally answered well. However, students need to ensure that they are applying their knowledge to the scenario, as students who failed to mention the cat were limited to half marks. Furthermore, some students failed to mention the idea of relaxation which is key to systematic desensitisation.
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