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Joseph Wolpe (1915 – 1997) was a South African  psychiatrist, born in a Jewish family from Johannesburg, South Africamarker in 1915, settled later in his life in the United States,. He is best known for developing what is now called systematic desensitization. This treatment developed as a result of his translational research with fearful animals. Systematic desensitization involves the imaginary exposure to a feared stimulus while simultaneously applying relaxation. Along with Arnold Lazarus he is considered one of the fathers of behavior therapy. Wolpe was professor of psychiatry at Temple Universitymarker Medical School from 1965 to 1988. He then moved to Los Angeles and taught at both UCLA and Pepperdine University. One of his best known books is The Practice of Behavior Therapy (4th Ed in 1991).


He developed the SUDS (Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale) for assessing the level of subjective discomfort or psychological pain.

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