Systematic desensitization

Learn about: Systematic desensitization from Preetpal Sandhu, MD,...
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Systematic desensitization

When it comes to treatment of anxiety, systematic desensitization is a principle that is extremely helpful for all of us to know about. It is a big, fancy word, but what it means is that your child can just get used to it. A great example of systematic desensitization, a story I like to tell parents, has to do with The Great Depression; where people were out looking for jobs and could not find them. In New York City, what they would do is they would work and build a basement for a skyscraper. These were people who had a tremendous fear of heights. So they would work on the basement and say, "Okay. Once that is done, I'm going to go find another job." They would go and look for another job once the basement was done, but it's The Depression, and there were no other jobs to find. They would come back to that sky scraper and say, "Can we help you build the first floor?" The next thing you know, they are on the 10th floor, the 15th floor, the 40th floor. These were people with tremendous fear of heights, that were now working on the 40th floor of a skyscraper. We have to ask ourselves; how did that work? How did the brain allow that to work? That's the idea of systematic desensitization. The brain allows us to get used to something, as long as we get used to it. For a child's anxiety, if there is something they are extremely fearful of; if they are exposed to it gradually, they can get used to it.

Learn about: Systematic desensitization from Preetpal Sandhu, MD,...


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Preetpal Sandhu, MD

Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

Dr. Sandhu is a UCLA-trained, Board Certified Psychiatrist who has practiced Psychiatry at UCLA and in Beverly Hills for several years. He did his undergraduate work at UCLA where he was named to Phi Beta Kappa. He then completed medical school at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine and was named a Dean's scholar. He also received a master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business where he was named to the Dean's list.

Dr. Sandhu then pursued training in Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles, Neuropsychiatric Institute (now named the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior). While at UCLA completing his residency and fellowship he was named the Chief Fellow of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry training program. He then proceeded to work at UCLA as part of the Attending Staff on the Child and Adolescent Inpatient unit. He is a member in good standing of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists (AACAP) and has served as the Southern California Regional Organization’s President.

His areas of interest include attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and the roles coordinated psychiatry and psychotherapy can have in jointly improving outcomes.

Dr. Sandhu lives in the Los Angeles area with his family and is actively involved in teaching medical students, residents, and fellows at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In his free time, he enjoys surfing, snowboarding, basketball, golf, video games, and travel.

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