脱敏，通常称为系统脱敏，是一种行为治疗技术，其中患者逐渐暴露于某些恐惧刺激以克服恐惧。脱敏是认知疗法治疗或调节的一部分，针对特定恐惧症而不解决该恐惧症的原因。自从20世纪中期首次实践以来，系统的脱敏已经使许多恐惧症的治疗和管理成为常规。 琼斯的同事和朋友约瑟夫沃尔普在1958年对这种方法的运作进行了归功。他的研究基于这样一个简单的观点：如果一个人能够达到一种与焦虑或恐惧相对立的放松状态，然后在在某种程度上，这种恐惧的总体影响将会减少。沃尔普发现，面对以前引起焦虑的情绪，放松往往会减少对刺激的恐惧。换句话说，Wolpe能够用放松反应来代替适应不良的神经质习惯。琼斯的研究集中在一个名叫彼得的三岁男孩身上，他对白兔产生了病态的恐惧。琼斯让他吃饭 – 这对他来说是一种愉快的习惯 – 随着时间的推移慢慢地将兔子移近他，尽管总是在足够的距离以免干扰他的饮食。先驱行为主义者Mary Cover Jones（1924）描述了系统脱敏的第一次临床应用，他发现直接调节和社会模仿都是消除儿童恐惧的有效方法。她的结论是，打破适应不良反应的最佳方法是在孩子享受他或她自己时引入可怕的物体。 Wolpe的研究基于心理学家Jules Masserman的条件反射实验，他在猫身上制作实验神经病，然后使用脱敏治疗它们。 Wolpe所做的是设计其他治疗猫的方法，他称之为“相互抑制”。像琼斯一样，他在呈现有条件的恐惧刺激时提供猫食。然后他将这些理论应用于临床患者。他的结论是，迫使人们面对恐惧往往会导致沮丧，而将放松与逐步暴露于不同程度的恐惧（称为“焦虑等级”）相结合，成功地使他们免于恐惧症。沃尔普报告说，在一系列210例病例中，治愈率达到了90％或大幅度提高。他还报告说，他的病例没有复发，也没有出现新的神经症状。
Desensitization, commonly referred to as systematic desensitization, is a type of behavioral therapy technique in which patients gradually become exposed to certain fear stimuli in order to overcome the fear. Desensitization is a part of cognitive therapy treatment, or conditioning, that targets a specific phobia without addressing the causes of that phobia. Since its first practice in the mid-20th century, systematic desensitization has routinized the treatment and management of many phobias.
Jones’ colleague and friend Joseph Wolpe is credited with the operationalization of the method in 1958. He based his research on the simple idea that if a person could reach some state of relaxation that is antagonistic to anxiety or fear, and then experience that fear in some way, the overall impact of that fear would be reduced. Wolpe found that relaxation in the face of situations that had previously evoked anxiety tended to reduce the fear attached to the stimuli. In other words, Wolpe was able to substitute a relaxation response to a maladaptive neurotic habit. Jones’ study focused on a three-year-old boy named Peter who had developed a pathological fear of a white rabbit. Jones engaged him in eating—an enjoyable practice for him—and over time slowly moved the bunny closer to him, although always at a sufficient distance so as not to interfere with his eating. The first clinical use of systematic desensitization was described by the pioneer behavioralist Mary Cover Jones (1924), who found that both direct conditioning and social imitation were effective methods for eliminating children’s fears. She concluded that the best way to break down maladaptive responses was to introduce the feared object while the child was enjoying him or herself. Wolpe based his study on psychologist Jules Masserman’s conditioned reflex experiments, which he produced experimental neuroses in cats and then cured them using desensitization. What Wolpe did was to devise other methods for treating the cats, in a manner he called “reciprocal inhibition.” Like Jones, he offered the cats food when presenting the conditioned fear stimulus. He then applied those theories to clinical patients. He concluded that forcing people to face their fears often resulted in frustration, whereas combining relaxation with stepwise exposure to different levels of their fears (called a “hierarchy of anxiety”) successfully weaned them from their phobias. Wolpe reported a whopping 90 percent rate of cure or much improvement in a series of 210 cases. He also reported that his cases did not relapse and did not develop new kinds of neurotic symptoms.