Systematic Desensitization for an Older Woman with a Severe Specific Phobia: An Application of Evidenced-Based Practice

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Phobic Disorders; Desensitization, Psychologic; Relaxation Therapy


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine


This case report describes the treatment of an older woman with a longstanding, severe specific phobia for whom evidence-based practice was implemented. Clinical practice guidelines, responsive to the scientific literature, indicate that in vivo exposure is the treatment of choice for a specific phobia. However, treatment tailoring may be necessary for older patients not willing to endure the acute anxiety sometimes associated with in vivo exposure. The present case is one such individual who refused in vivo exposure, but benefited from relaxation therapy and systematic desensitization. Treatment outcome studies are needed to develop an evidence base for specific phobia treatment among older persons.


Pagoto, S.L., Kozak, A.T., Spates, C.R., & Spring, B. (2006). Systematic desensitization for an older woman with a severe specific phobia: An application of evidence-based practice. Clinical Gerontologist, 30(1), 89-98.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Clinical Gerontologist