Getting Unconscious Conflict to Work For, Rather than Against, Us: The Therapeutic Effects of Unconscious Exposure - Paul Siegel, PhD (Live)

October 28, 2022

 A longstanding clinical conviction is that people with anxiety disorders must directly confront their feared object or situation in order to reduce fear of it. This dogma is the basis of exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapies. Challenging this belief, my collaborators and I have repeatedly shown that repeated, unconscious exposure to phobic stimuli -- what we term very brief exposure (VBE) -- reduces avoidance and self-reported fear of a live tarantula in highly spider-phobic persons. VBE is based on both the neuroscience of fear and psychoanalytic theory, specifically Freud’s (1932) proposal that “inside of every phobic, there is a counter-phobic”: phobic people are actually unconsciously conflicted about their fears. I will present a series of randomized controlled tests (RCTs) of VBE, including RCTs conducted during fMRI scanning and psychophysiological monitoring, which provide a window into the dynamic mechanisms of unconscious exposure. I will also present our current and future research directions, which include using VBE to treat combat-related, Post-traumatic stress disorder  in recent U.S. combat veterans, and to reduce phobia-based, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.


Target Audience

______ Introductory                __XX___ Intermediate                  ______ Advanced

Learning Objectives

1: Demonstrate knowledge of the therapeutic effects of unconscious exposure on Specific Phobia.

2: Discuss the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of phobic fear and of unconscious exposure

3: Describe a novel research design in which a controlled trial of a behavioral treatment occurs during brain imaging.

Course summary
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
10/28/2022 - 12:50pm EDT
Event ends: 
10/28/2022 - 1:50pm EDT

Dr. Paul Siegel is Professor of Psychology at Purchase College/SUNY and Research Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC). A clinical psychologist and expert in unconscious processes in psychopathology, Paul is the co-creator of very brief exposure (VBE), an experimental technique for unconsciously reducing fear symptoms in people with anxiety disorders. For the past 17 years, he has developed VBE to study its effects on various dimensions of anxiety disorders in his psychology laboratory at Purchase College/SUNY, and in the brain imaging lab at the Saban Research Institute of USC. Paul has received two research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, many research grants from private organizations, and has published widely in high-impact scientific journals. He has received two SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching and for Excellence in Research, which recognize distinguished SUNY faculty in these areas.

Austen Riggs Center Inc. confirms that Linda Michaels, PsyD, MBA, nor anyone involved in the planning of the CME event, has disclosed a potential conflict of interest. 

The views and opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the Austen Riggs Center. 

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