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September 2021

Counterconditioning in the treatment of spider phobia: effects on disgust, fear and valence [In Process Citation]

Author(s): Vorage, I., van den Hout, M. A.

Journal/Book: Behav Res Ther. 2000; 38: 1055-69.

Abstract: From the perspective that disgust is a core feature of spider phobia, we investigated whether the treatment efficacy could be improved by adding a counterconditioning procedure. Women with a clinically diagnosed spider phobia (N = 34) were randomly assigned to the regular one-session exposure condition (EXP) or to the exposure with counterconditioning condition (CC). In the CC-condition tasty food- items were used during the regular exposure exercises and the participants' favourite music was played. Both treatment conditions appeared very effective in reducing avoidance behaviour and self- reported fear of spiders, strongly attenuated the disgusting properties of spiders and altered the affective evaluations in a positive direction. CC was not more effective in altering the affective valence of spiders than EXP and was not superior with respect to the long term treatment efficacy at 1 year follow up. Apparently, regular exposure treatment is already quite effective in altering the affective- evaluative component of spider phobia and it remains to be seen whether it is possible to further improve treatment outcome by means of procedures which are specifically designed to reduce the spiders' negative affective valence.

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