Exposure can be two things to two different personalities. In one personality exposure is getting used to a situation by constant bombardment. In the right type of person this works. But you have to have coping skills in place already from some other exposure. If you have no coping skills this constant exposure will force you to build them or fail.
In the other personality, that of the person without coping skills to start with exposure is a test of the ones you are building. In no way should you do exposure with out coping skills. That is like jumping in deepwater to learn how to swim. It can work but seldom does. I prefer to build coping skills with very small exposures increasing the time as a test of your ability to cope rather than as a way to build coping skills even if that is also what it is doing.
Changing thought patterns and then doing exposure to make sure the new thought pattern is working. How can you know if you don't do exposure.
CBT is about changing the triggers effect by thinking in a way that it does this. Trigger doesn't go away, it just means something different. And in this way it appears to go away and in some cases it actually does as in the case of phobias.