Fear and anxiety reduction procedures are based on principles of operant and
Defining fear and anxiety procedures
Before talking about treatment, it is important to provide operational definitions of
the behaviors involved. A fear is composed of both operant and respondent behavior.
When the stimulus is present, the person experiences unpleasant bodily responses
and engages in escape or avoidance behavior. The bodily responses are respondent
behaviors we call anxiety. The CR involved unpleasant sensations that people call
anxiety. Fears or anxiety disorders are characterized by a combination of
respondent behavior, in which the bodily responses of anxiety is elicited by a
particular CS, and operant behavior, in which escape or avoidance behaviors are
reinforced by removal of the feared stimulus and reduction in the unpleasant
anxiety. Treatment approaches involve components that address both the operant
and respondent behaviors.
It may no be known how the CS became conditioned to elicit the CR of anxiety.
Knowledge of how the fear was conditioned is unnecessary to help the person
overcome the fear. What is important is to identify all the stimuli that currently
function as CS and elicit the fear responses.
One other issue to consider is understanding fears and anxiety problems is that
sometimes a problem that appears to be a fear or anxiety problem is simply an
operant behavior with no respondent behavior or fear component. It is important to
conduct a functional assessment of the supposed fear behavior to determine what
function it serves for the child.
Procedures to reduce fear and anxiety
Procedures are strategies that people use to decrease the autonomic arousal that
they experience as a component of fear and anxiety problems. Relaxation exercises
produce bodily responses such as decreases in muscle tension, heart rate, and
breathing rate and warming of the hands.
-progressive muscle relaxation: the person systematically tenses and relaxes each of
the major muscle groups in the body. The person must first learn how to tense and
relax each of the major muscles. Starting with the first muscle group, the dominant
hand and arm, the client tenses the muscles tightly for 5 secs then abruptly releases
the tension. When person tries PMR without the help of a therapist or audiotape, he
or she must first practice tensing and relaxing each muscle group and them
memorize the sequence to do the procedure correctly. Because the PR procedures