Direct Therapeutic Exposure

  • Patrick A. Boudewyns
  • Robert H. Shipley


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German author, suffered from intense fears of heights, diseased bodies, loud noises, and dark, lonely places. As a 20-year-old law student at the University of Strasberg, he decided to remedy these infirmities. In his autobiography (Goethe, 1770) he wrote:

I ascended quite alone the highest pinnacle of the cathedral spire, and sat in the so-called neck under the knob or crown, as it is called, for a quarter of an hour, before I ventured to step out again into the open air, where, on standing on a platform, scarcely an ell square, without anything particular to hold on to, one sees before one the boundless land, while the nearest objects and ornaments conceal the church and everything on which and above which one stands. It is exactly as if one saw oneself carried up into the air in a balloon. Such anxiety and pain I repeated so often until the impression became quite different to me, and I have therefore derived great advantage from these practices in mountain travels and on geological studies, and on great buildings, where I have vied with the carpenters in running over the free-lying beams and the cornices of the building, and even in Rome, where one must run similar risks in order to obtain a nearer view of important works of art. (pp. 326-327)

Goethe used similar techniques to treat his other fears.


Direct Exposure Negative Side Effect Skin Conductance Level Response Prevention Reciprocal Inhibition 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick A. Boudewyns
    • 1
  • Robert H. Shipley
    • 2
  1. 1.Veterans Administration Medical CenterMedical College of GeorgiaAugustaUSA
  2. 2.Veterans Administration Medical CenterDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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