Systematic Desensitization or graduated exposure therapy is a type of behavioral therapy to help individuals overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders. Source. In the treatment of eating disorders, this aids patients in transitioning to balanced and normalized eating patterns while tolerating weight changes & shifts as part of the recovery process. For example, in the first stage of Maudsley Family Based treatment parents/caregivers are put in charge of meal planning & preparation. See Magic Plate. As they demonstrate progress, including weight gain, caregivers begin to "test the waters," gradually allowing the patient to be involved in making decisions/choices about his or her menu/intake with the expectation of maintaining progress. During the next stage of treatment, as the patient demonstrates progress combined with increased competence, confidence and the ability to take on increased responsibility (in an age/stage appropriate manner), responsibility is gradually handed back to the patient. This is a very gradual process that is done in a systematic manner to facilitate reduction of anxiety combined with increase in confidence, competence and progress with the goal of enhancing empowerment. This process aims for a gradual reduction of fears associated with eating a well balanced menu and the idea of living in physiologic balance.
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