John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology

Implosion Therapy Exercise



As a controversial form of psychotherapy, implosion therapy rapidly immerses people to their conscious as well as unconscious fears by constructing a scripted story that they then reenact in their imagination. I use the following handout for an exercise designed to help students understand this form of therapy. It's a great way to help students exercise their imagination as well as their analytic thinking. I break the class down into small groups of 4-6 for this exercise.

- An Implosive Therapy Script -

Harold is a very shy and conservative college senior. He has never dated and himself admits that females make him nervous. Two weeks before his 21st birthday, he found himself "blocking" while taking exams. He worries that his grades are dropping and that his very strict father "will kill me." Recently he has also developed a fear of heights and suffers from terrible nightmares about falling from a tall tower. His over protective mother insists that he's just going through a "phase" - but despite her objections, Harold came for therapy.

The task for your group is to write, together, an implosive therapy script that will address Harold's problems. The scene you describe should be detailed and vivid. It should narrate exactly what Harold will experience in his imagination. It should describe, step by step, what Harold SEES, DOES, HEARS, SMELLS, FEELS, etc.

Your group should be prepared to discuss the reasons why this implosive scene is therapeutic for Harold's particular problems.

REMEMBER: The implosive scene, ideally, addresses as many of Harold's problems as possible. Harold may not even be consciously aware of some of his hidden (unconscious) problems!

Note: Each group takes a turn reading their script to the class. We then discuss the scripts, including where the script was and wasn't vivid, and the kinds of emotions highlighted in each script. Some of the emotions that might be imploded in the scripts include Harold's fear of success and/or failure; fear, anger and guilt towards his mother and father; fear and attraction towards women; fear about growing up; miscellaneous sexual fears and desires, etc. Different groups usually highlight different clusters of emotions. There may be "hints" of emotion/fears in some scripts that could have been amplified. Sometimes there are interesting differences between all-female, all-male, and mixed gender groups in how they construct the scripts.

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