Happy 2018 – Day 81 – The Ladder of Exposure

Yesterday, I wrote about exposure therapy. Today, I’m going to share the exposure ladder. This works with kids and adults alike, when facing challenges, fears and obstacles.


The ladder is a key part of graded exposure and CBT. Basically, you work your way up the ladder, tackling things that you’re increasingly afraid of.

A year into my teacher training in 2010, drowning in social anxiety and public speaking phobia, having finally relented and sought the help of a therapist, I was introduced to the ‘Avoidance Hierarchy’ or exposure ladder. As a teacher suffering with social anxiety, I was in a position where I had plenty of ideas as to what my steps might include.

Here’s a version of what my Social Anxiety ladder looked like:

exposure ladder example SA

I’ve said before that many people told me to ‘throw myself into it’ when I told them of my anxiety, and how that only made me more anxious. Taking this kind of step-by-step approach can really support you in tackling what you’re afraid of, without pushing yourself too hard, too soon.

What I really like is that it doesn’t matter how you do at the items on the ladder, only that you do them.

No beating yourself up about how badly something goes. The only thing you’re asking of yourself here is that you give it a go.

You’ll find a blank copy of the ladder here at https://psychologytools.com for your own use, whether you’re facing something that feels massive or something that maybe only has a few steps, this is a great tool to help you take charge of your fears.

If you do use this, then I hope you gain as much strength and courage from climbing it as I did.

Have you seen the ladder before? Do you already use a ladder-style approach in the way you live each day? Thoughts, comments, advice welcome!


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