Skip to main content

Arachnophobia clinical trials at UC Health
1 research study open to eligible people

  • Optimizing Exposure Therapy With Mental Rehearsal

    open to eligible people ages 18 years and up

    Treatment response rates for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) across anxiety disorders average approximately 50% post-treatment (Loerinc et al, 2015), evidencing significant 'return of fear', the re-emergence of a partially or fully extinguished fear (Rachman, 1989). Thus, recent research has amplified efforts toward improving treatment methodology in an attempt to optimize clinical outcomes. Many efforts have targeted exposure therapy, an evidence-based behavioral technique during which a patient is strategically and repeatedly exposed to his or her feared stimulus in an effort to generate new non-fear associations with that stimulus. One such effort involves mental rehearsal, where information is reinstated using either a cue from extinction training or imaginal recounting of previous successful exposures (Craske et al, 2014). Prior research has assessed the effects of mental rehearsal via reinstatement of the extinction context (i.e., treatment context) or of cues/items from the treatment context that may indicate safety (e.g., Mystkowski et al, 2006; Culver, Stoyanova, & Craske, 2011). However, this research has produced inconsistent results and contains an inherent limitation, as retrieval cues may become a safety signal and inhibit new learning (Dibbets, Havermans, & Arntz, 2008). In an effort to address these limitations, the current study recruits spider-fearful participants for a treatment trial consisting of exposures in conjunction with either a mental rehearsal intervention, or a control rehearsal intervention. The overarching goal of this project is to evaluate the extent to which a between-session, technology-guided mental rehearsal intervention may optimize exposure therapy outcomes. We also seek to evaluate potential mechanisms of mental rehearsal. Participants complete three laboratory visits, including two sessions of exposures with live spiders. Participants are randomized to either a mental rehearsal or control rehearsal condition to measure potential mechanisms and moderators of mental rehearsal. Laboratory-based assessments include measures of subjective, behavioral, and psychophysiological responses to spiders.

    at UCLA

Last updated: