Role Playing



Role-Playing Therapy focuses on patients who have phobias and want to overcome them by learning new behaviors. The sessions will consist of the therapist taking the role of someone who may be difficult for the patient to confront. When the client is interacting with the counselor they will use the new behaviors that have been taught to them during treatment. Many people suffer from social or interpersonal fears that prevent them from participating in many endeavors. Role-Playing Therapy can help individuals overcome the fears by breaking the habit and learning new behavioral techniques. How well the treatment plan works is going to depend on how severe the fear is. There are some phobias that cannot be cured although therapy can help people function when in the given situation.

Goals of Role-Playing Therapy

The purpose of Role-Playing Therapy is to help the patient overcome their individual fear. The most common treatments are towards those who have an inept phobia of social interaction which can prevent them from participating in many activities. By going to therapy the counselor will work with the patient individually so that they can overcome this issue and develop new ways of thinking and acting which helps them overcome the challenge and enjoy more aspects of life. At times the phobia is the result of a traumatic situation. The therapist will diagnose the client to get to the root of the fear first and then clarify any memories that may be associated with it. By eliminating the fears and allowing the patient to see that it is an illusion they can begin using the techniques that they've learned during the session and execute them outside of therapy.

When is Role-Playing Therapy Used?

Role-Playing Therapy is used for different phobias although social anxiety is the most common anxiety to treat. There are a number of fears that people have and some of them may be the result of something negative that has happened in their lives. Other phobias may be present for little to no reason. By acknowledging this fear and asking the patient what they are scared off, both the therapist and client can work together and find a way to overcome the trauma. Some patients may have delusional reasons as to why they are scared of certain things and in this case the behavior can still be manipulated. By resolving the reasoning and reversing the habitual thoughts that come to mind within the given situation, the patient will learn how to face their fears head on and reason with themselves when their minds are being unreasonable.

How Role-Playing Therapy Works

Treatment works by gradually exposing the patient to the situation through role-playing and rehearsal. They will learn methods in reducing the amount of anxiety they experience. These methods will provide them with courage and help them relax when nervous feelings begin taking over. The best treatment method is slowly moving the client into the place or situation in which the phobia sets in. The counselor will teach the patient relaxation techniques, deep breathing and demonstrate biofeedback. Being that there are some fears that cannot be cured there is medication to help patients who are affected by it heavily. The medications are used with therapy although they usually are not prescribed until the counselor is aware of the severity. The medications that are most effective in treating social phobias are antidepressants and SSRIs.

If the phobia has been caused by a learned anxiety then the patient can heal by learning how to not feel anxious through a method called desensitization. Desensitization teaches the clients how to relax within the target environment by imagining certain things when the conflict arises. When anyone can learn how to go into a deep state of relaxation they have the ability to overcome negative reactions and stress which benefits them both physically and emotionally. If there is something that bothers the client they tend to avoid dwelling on it which actually makes the phobia worse. By implementing desensitization the client will be able to imagine being in a relaxed state which decreases the amount of anxiety.

By the end of treatment the patient should be able to approach their situation slowly while working on learned relaxation components. If the desensitization proceeds it will gain enough momentum so that it overcomes the presence of fear in a situation that isn't harmful. The key to Role-Playing Therapy is slow progress and gradually learning the new target behavior which can be accomplished using imagination, trust in the therapist and gradual courage.


What is desensitization therapy?. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Therapeutic role-playing. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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