Maximizing exposure therapy: An inhibitory learning approach

David Torrents-Rodas, Miquel A. Fullana, Bram Vervliet, Michael Treanor, Chris Conway, Tomislav Zbozinek, Michelle G. Craske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


© Asociación Española de Psicología Clínica y Psicopatología. Despite the effectiveness of exposure therapy for treating anxiety disorders, a number of patients fail to benefit or experience a return of fear after treatment. Research suggests that anxious individuals show deficits in the mechanisms believed to underlie exposure therapy, such as inhibitory learning. Targeting these processes may help improve the efficacy of exposure-based procedures. The primary aim of this paper is to provide examples to clinicians for how to apply this model to optimize exposure therapy with anxious clients, in ways that distinguish it from a "fear habituation" approach and "belief disconfirmation" approach within standard cognitive-behavior therapy. Exposure optimization strategies include 1) expectancy violation, 2) deepened extinction, 3) occasional reinforced extinction, 4) removal of safety signals, 5) variability, 6) retrieval cues, 7) multiple contexts, and 8) affect labeling. Case studies illustrate methods of applying these techniques with a variety of anxiety disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
JournalRevista de Psicopatologia y Psicologia Clinica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Exposure therapy
  • Inhibitory learning
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Specific phobia


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