Anyone with a phobia knows what it is like to feel terrified of something that most people take for granted. Whether it be cynophobia (fear of dogs), hemophobia (fear of blood), or claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), the presentation is basically the same – when faced with the event, object or situation that is the focus of their fear, the individual with the phobia is often terrified to the point of experiencing a panic attack.
Phobia Treatment in Non-Traditional Venues
For those with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) or arachnophobia (fear of spiders) there is now a novel place to get help. The Bristol Zoo in England is offering two seminars specifically for those who have a fear of snakes and spiders. The classes will be led by zoo staff and include a counselor who specializes in phobias. These programs allow those with ophidiophobia and arachnophobia the opportunity to face their fears head-on. The zoo also offers a follow-up course for those who have already attended prior spider phobia courses and want a refresher.
On a similar front, the Royal School for Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland has recently begun to offer specialized training specifically for veterinary students who have phobias of exotic animals. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people having exotic animals such as snakes and rats as pets. As a result, there is a rising demand for veterinarians who can provide health care for these animals. However, enough veterinary students have fears of these types of animals that the Royal School now offers this specialized approach to help student vets conquer their phobias.
It is unfortunate that more schools, organizations, and businesses don’t offer programs that address the phobias of their consumer base. For example, a number of airlines used to offer programs to help customers move beyond their aerophobia (fear of flying). American, Delta, and Northwest airlines all had programs for aerophobia, and all were based on the principles of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). One can guess that the financial woes currently being experienced by most airline companies may have played a role in the demise of these offerings.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Treatment of Phobias
All of the above examples point to how phobias impact peoples’ lives, and how non-traditional treatment venues could utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy principles to help address the phobias of their constituents. The OCD Center of Los Angeles has treated a number of clients over the years with similar phobias who unfortunately did not have such options available to them.
In one case, our client was a medical student with severe emetophobia (the fear of vomit and/or vomiting). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) quickly helped him move beyond this fear and get on with his education and career. Likewise, we treated a student getting a degree in biology who was terrified of rats. The first year of his coursework required close contact with lab rats. Even though the rats were dead, our client was still terrified of them. A short course of CBT quickly led to a significant reduction in the phobia. And we have successfully treated numerous clients with a fear of flying who had previously been unable to travel for years.
One of the unfortunate realities of phobias is that many people go years suffering with a condition that is treatable. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is relatively quick, and has been repeatedly found by researchers to be the most effective treatment of phobias and other anxiety disorders. If you are experiencing a phobia, you owe it to yourself to find a Cognitive Behavioral therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias.
•Tom Corboy, MFT, is the director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles, a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions. In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment. To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.