Phobias Treatment The Goals of Phobia Treatment By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 22, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhD Medically reviewed by David Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print If you have begun treatment or considering treatment for a phobia, you may be wondering how to determine the goals of your treatment. What do you hope will be accomplished by addressing your phobia? What changes in your life are you hoping will take place? The goals of therapy for phobia are to reduce or eliminate the symptoms so you can perform daily activities, including making and managing money, taking care of your household, and maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. Types of Phobia The type of treatment you receive depends on the type of phobia you have and the severity of your symptoms. There are three types of phobia: Agoraphobia involves a fear of situations in which you can't escape (such as leaving home, being alone at home, or being in a particular place such as a car or bus) and resultant avoidance behavior to prevent exposure to those fearful situations. Social phobia, now called social anxiety disorder or SAD, is a very common disorder involving anxiety which is out of proportion related to social situations. Unlike normal nervousness, those with social anxiety disorder find their anxiety interferes with their relationships with others and may affect their career as well. Specific phobia is well known to most people and involves an irrational fear of an object or situation. There is a multitude of different phobias such as claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces) and often several different phobias occur together. While treatments for each type of phobia differ, the goals of treatment are to help you learn to manage your anxiety responses and function well in your daily life. A to Z: List of Phobias How Common Are Phobias? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 9.1% of adults in the U.S. had a specific phobia in the past year.Approximately 0.9% of adults experienced agoraphobia in the past year and around 1.3% will have this condition at some point in their lives. An estimated 7.1% of adults experienced social phobia (social anxiety disorder) in the past year.The severity of the phobia and the impact it has on life vary tremendously. What is common, however, is that a phobia often limits people's life or prevents them from enjoying their life to the greatest degree possible. Phobia Treatment Goals A good mental health professional will customize a treatment plan for you, which may include both talk therapy and medication. A physician is more likely to add medication to agoraphobia or social phobia treatment plan than for a specific phobia. Specific Phobia Treatment Goals Your treatment goals for specific phobia are likely to be met through the cognitive behavior therapy method known as exposure therapy. During this desensitization process, the therapist will gradually expose you to stimuli related to your fear in a safe and controlled environment. Before the exposure process begins, people first learn relaxation techniques that they can use to remain calm when faced with the source of their fears. These techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. The next step is to practice using these relaxation strategies gradually and progressively in the face of the feared object or situation. You'll know you've reached your therapy goal when the distorted thinking that fuels your phobia diminishes to a functional level or disappears. Agoraphobia Treatment Goals Research suggests that combining cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with medication is an effective treatment for agoraphobia. Medications work to address symptoms of anxiety in the short-term, while CBT helps change the thoughts and feelings that contribute to panic and anxiety symptoms. The goals of agoraphobia treatment are to learn: Your fears are not likely to come true Your anxiety will gradually decrease in public and that you're capable of managing your symptoms until they do The factors that trigger your panic attacks, or panic-like symptoms, or make them worse Techniques to deal with your symptoms How to change unwanted and unhealthy behaviors through self-guided desensitization techniques Social Phobia Treatment Goals Your treatment plan for social phobia is likely to include a combination of talk therapy, medication, and role-playing. The goals of treatment for social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, including helping you to: Change the negative thoughts you have about yourselfDevelop confidence in social situations, especially the ones you fear mostImprove your coping skills A medication commonly prescribed to help you reach your therapeutic objectives include: Antidepressants Anti-anxiety medication Beta-blockers A Word From Verywell The goals of therapy are essential to help you live your life fully without irrational thoughts and fears which interfere with your activities. You may begin with primary goals and advance to other goals as you reach your initial goals. Every person is different so it is hard to estimate how long it will take any one person to reach their personal goals of treatment, but research tells us that these goals are often attainable—even when it feels as if you could never face some of the situations that you now fear. The Best Online Therapy Programs We've tried, tested and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute of Mental Health. Specific phobia. Cleveland Clinic. Agoraphobia: management and treatment. Additional Reading Bogels, S., Wijts, P., Oort, F., and S. Sallaerts. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Versus Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder: An Efficacy and Partial Effectiveness Trial. Depression and Anxiety. 2014. 31(5):363-73. Imai, H., Tajika, A., Chen, P., Pompoli, A., and T. Furukawa. Psychological Therapies Versus Pharmacological Interventions for Panic Disorder with or without Agoraphobia in Adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016. 10: CD011170. By Lisa Fritscher Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.