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Credentials for Developing the Building Confidence CDs! Series

"Systematic desensitization" which adapted the psychologist, Pavlov's, animal conditioning method to humans in the 1920's, has been widely used by therapists and widely praised by academic researchers. But there have been few attempts to automate this reconditioning for widespread student or adult-use. The Building Confidence CDs! Series is now available inexpensively through this website for motivated students, parents or adults at home; for teachers in classrooms or computer labs; for school, college, and professional counselors to free their time for more complex problems, and for academic and public libraries.

In the 1970's, I was the Director of the Public Speaking Course in the Department of Speech at Iowa State University. Many academic departments required their students to take and pass the public speaking course, so the students would have had some exposure to public speaking before entering their own careers. Many students were too anxious about taking the public speaking course and delayed graduation until they could handle the course.

As their course director, I sought ways to help the anxious students. I found that a staff member of the Iowa State University's Student Counseling Service knew of a method called "systematic desensitization." A counselor would take an individual or group, teach them methods of deep muscle relaxation combined with a series of mental visualization sessions. The counselor had the students imagine scenes leading to and through preparing for and giving a speech while deeply relaxed. Usually, in about six one-hour sessions, the individual or group could be taught to remain relaxed while imagining the scenes that had previously made them nervous. The program was successful in helping the public speaking students control their fears enough to take and pass the course. But the Counseling Service could not afford to provide full-time counselors; only the inexpensive services of graduate-students-in-counseling were used.

I realized that we could not have enough graduate-student-counselors for the students who needed the training. I audiotaped the talks in the six sessions the counselors had used. Students listening to the audiotapes for the same number of sessions were as successful as those who had spent time in the group with the counselors. The article, "The Development of an Audio-Taped Treatment for Systematic Desensitization of Speech Anxiety," was published in the Central States Speech Journal, 26:3, Fall, 1975, pp. 215-220. In 1976, the National Textbook Company published my set of six audiotapes called, Building Speech Confidence, which was sold internationally.

I moved to private business from the university in 1977 and spent the next few years building the base of my own business. I returned to apply the concept to help high school students with math anxiety in the 1990s. I developed a set of audiotapes and called the program, Building Math Confidence. That audiotape also proved that students using the program reduced their anxiety about a high school math course significantly more than those who were equally anxious but who chose not to use the program. The results were published as "An Audiotaped Program for Reduction of High School Students' Math Anxiety," in School Science and Mathematics, 94:6, October, 1994, pages 310-313.

In the intervening years, I have applied this "systematic desensitization" method to help those with several common anxieties. As technology progressed, I adapted the audiotaped programs into compact disc programs and developed several more applications. By recording each visualized scene on a separate track, the CDs are much easier to use. I also developed pretests to identify individuals who could benefit from the programs and posttests evaluate these individuals' progress. These CDs are now available through this website. The website also includes testimonials from adults and students who have used the CDs successfully.