Fear Ladder Worksheet for Exposure Hierarchy
Suffering from a fear or phobia is a form of anxiety which in turn impacts your mental health. Negative thoughts that prevent you from living your life can be debilitating and upsetting but with the right therapy or self-help methods, they can be helped. This is why we have created a fear ladder worked for exposure hierarchy work that can help you to lower anxiety and reduce feelings of panic.
A fear ladder is a relatively simple tool that enables you to grade your fears and worries. At the bottom of the ladder, clients place the least frightening aspects of their fear or phobia and at the top the very worst. The purpose of our fear ladder worksheet is to help guide our clients up the ladder by exposing them gradually to their fears so that their unhelpful thoughts reduce.
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How Do You Make a Fear Ladder?
When you start making a fear ladder to help your mental health you first need to decide how many steps should be on it. This will determine what you need to expose yourself to gradually to eliminate your fears and worries.
Each person we see has different fears and phobias so there are many different fear ladders for each client. However, the first thing they will all have to do to help manage their anxiety is state what they believe their fear actually is.
So try and identify what your fear or phobia is to start making your ladder. For some people that might be social anxiety, for others flying in a plane or perhaps dealing with spiders.
When you have identified your problem start to do a brain dump of all the aspects of that problem that might be causing you an issue. Don’t order them at this point. Just allow yourself to write down the aspects of the phobia or fear that are impacting your mental health.
When you have your brain dump list you can now start to get those thoughts and order them so that the least frightening are at the bottom of your list and the worst problems are at the top. This is called an anxiety hierarchy.
Fear Ladder Examples For Creating An Anxiety Hierarchy
If you find this difficult to picture then this simple guide should hopefully give you some examples of what an anxiety hierarchy looks like.
Let’s look at the hierarchy of a simple spider phobia. Your first thought might be that anything related to spiders makes me panic but when you start to think about different situations you should start to see that not all your worries are equal. To illustrate this here is a typical spider hierarchy.
- Thinking About Spiders
- Touching a Toy Spider
- Looking at Photos of Spiders
- Looking at Videos of Spiders
- Seeing Spiders Outside
- Having a Spider in a Closed Box in Front of You
- Opening the Top Of The Box With the Spider In
- Allowing the Spider to Crawl In Front of You
- Touching the Spider
As you can see from this illustration your fear of thinking about spiders is probably not going to be that high whilst your anxiety about touching one might make you want to run away as far from the spider as possible.
Take the brain dump that you did earlier and now try to create a similar fear ladder that includes thoughts as well as any physical problems you have. Make sure you order your anxiety to the least worrying at the bottom and the worst problems at the top.
How Does a Fear Ladder Work?
Hopefully, by now, you should have your fear ladder in order. This is your starting point to helping your mental health as these thoughts of yours can now be worked on using by using exposure hierarchy therapy. So what does this mean?
Put simply you are now going to slowly start to expose yourself to the things that are on your list to reduce your fear.
Now I know you may be thinking that the very things that are on your list actually create your anxieties. Well, that may be true but what you probably don’t know is that if you expose yourself to the things that you fear and you experience no harm the fear then starts to lessen.
To summarise the more you run towards the things that scare you the less fearful they become. The more you run away from your fears the bigger your anxiety gets.
Our fear ladder worksheet is really an exercise in getting you used to your fears so that the anxiety reduces and eventually disappears.
Using The Graded Exposure Worksheet To Reduce Anxiety
The key to exposure therapy is to start working your way up the ladder slowly so that you reduce your fears rather than making them worse. Never try to skip steps and aim for the most difficult anxiety first as that might be detrimental to your mental health. The intention of each step on the ladder is to build your confidence and resources as you go so that by the time you reach the top you are ready to handle what you are exposing yourself to.
Remember that perseverance is the key when you are using our fear ladder worksheet. Things do improve over time but you may need a little patience with these resources as your practice.
If you find that it is too difficult to do by yourself then try and get a friend or a family member to guide you through the process. If their help isn’t what you want then any therapist should be able to assist you with using these tools.
We also recommend self-help books that can make a difference. Why not try Richard Reid’s Cure Your Phobia in 24 Hours Book to pick up other tips and strategies you can use to stop the fear.
Using the Systematic Desensitization Worksheet With Hypnosis
One thing that we do with our clients to make the whole exercise even easier is to use hypnosis and you can replicate what we do at home.
Hypnosis is a great tool for addressing fears and phobias as it helps to dampen down any anxiety. An example of this may be that one of our clients may find that looking at a picture of a spider for the first time to be a 7/10 on an anxiety scale. If we were to put that client into hypnosis then that fear can lower significantly and now become a 3 or a 4 out of 10.
The implications of using hypnosis to help anxiety and improve mental health through relaxation are that treatment for these types of problems tends to become much easier. You are clearly going to be able to tackle your hierarchy faster and experience less fearful thoughts along the way.
If you want to try this for yourself a simple tool that you can use is our self-hypnosis for relaxation and stress reduction download. Use it just before you start using our fear ladder worksheet for exposure therapy and you are likely to feel calmer and more in control.
Fear Ladder Worksheet PDF
Want to try our exposure therapy worksheet for yourself. Simply download our fear ladder worksheet PDF so that you can use this method to reduce anxiety and improve your mental health. Our worksheet consists of two pages. The first allows you to a brain dump of your anxiety to enable you to see the situations which may be causing you a problem. The second sheet allows you to sort those thoughts into an exposure hierarchy so that you can practice challenging your fears.
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