Does the theoretical perspective of exposure framing matter? Acceptance, fear reduction/cognitive reappraisal, and values-framing of exposure for social anxiety

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Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy



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Exposure-based therapy represents a first line treatment for anxiety disorders, but it is often underused. One target for improving client engagement is manipulating the theoretical perspective from which exposure is framed. Ninety-six adults with elevated social anxiety were enrolled in a two-session exposure therapy intervention. Participants were randomized to one of four conditions: (a) fear reduction/cognitive reappraisal, (b) acceptance, (c) personal values, or (d) experimental control The first three included brief psychoeducation and condition-specific experiential exercises and rationale; all four included in-session speech exposure and between-session exposure for homework. Results revealed that compared to the experimental control, the three active conditions reported significantly higher treatment credibility, initial in-vivo exposure engagement, and improvement in social anxiety symptoms. The three active conditions showed few differences among themselves. This study demonstrates that a brief exposure intervention using a credible rationale led to initial engagement in exposure therapy and improvement in social anxiety symptoms.