The British Journal of Psychiatry
The use of “Emotive Imagery” In the Treatment of Children's Phobias
Arnold A. Lazarus, Arnold Abramovitz


A Reciprocal Inhibition (3) technique for the treatment of children's phobias is presented which consists essentially of an adaptation of Wolpe's method of “systematic desensitization” (4). Instead of inducing muscular relaxation as the anxiety-inhibiting response, certain emotion-arousing situations are presented to the child's imagination. The emotions induced are assumed, like relaxation, to have autonomic effects which are incompatible with anxiety. This technique, which the authors have provisionally labelled “emotive imagery” was applied to nine phobic children whose ages ranged from 7 to 14 years. Seven children recovered in a mean of 3.3 sessions and follow-up enquiries up to 12 months later revealed no relapses or symptom substitution. An outstanding feature of this paediatric technique is the extraordinary rapidity with which remission occurs.