Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Strength in numbers: Group therapy can quell phobias in one day

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It’s been known for decades how to cure phobias (though, oddly, many with phobias do not seek treatment or seem to want them cured, possibly because they view their phobias as part of their identity: “I’m a person who fears flying,” for example). 

Advances in treatment of phobias continue, and André Wannemüller, a licensed psychotherapist and postdoctoral research fellow at the Mental Health Treatment and Research Centre at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, writes in Psyche of a one-day treatment:

The treatment was supposed to start at 8am, but many of the participants arrived at the airport much earlier. They didn’t want to miss anything, and some say they were too excited to sleep in anyway. After hearing of the programme through local media reports, they are the first 138 people of more than 700 who have signed up for a one-session, group treatment programme to combat their flying phobia. Because of their fear, most of them have not flown for years; some have avoided air travel all their lives.

Now they are gathered here in a congress hall at the airport where I provide them with information about the meaning of anxiety and fear, as well as the typical cognitive and bodily symptoms associated with a fear of flying. I also talk about fear-maintaining processes and dysfunctional ‘safety behaviours’ (strategies that might bring relief in the short term, but ultimately prolong the problem), such as taking tranquillisers or drinking alcohol.

Then the flight captain and crew enter the scene, ready to respond to participants’ questions: What actually happens in the event of a medical emergency on board, or if an engine fails? Can an aircraft be struck by lightning? Is that dangerous? What happens in a severe storm?

People have a lot of questions and, for most of them, the staff can give the ‘all-clear’: flying is extremely safe (measured per billion passenger kilometres), and the aircraft and crew are well prepared for virtually any eventuality. After that, it gets serious.

Now, I say, it’s time to board the ‘exposure’ flight, to gain a new and anxiety-relieving experience in dealing with your fear of flying. A specially chartered plane and a team of 20 therapists are already waiting at the gate. The vast majority of this first batch of participants, more than 120 in all, dared to take part. Security check, boarding – everything is as it would be on a normal flight. When the doors of the plane are closed, however, tension is palpable. Some stare ahead, some cry, and others concentrate on the talks offered by me and the other psychotherapists.

As the plane accelerates for take-off, it suddenly . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

Later in the article:

Since then, the positive effects of one-session treatments have been demonstrated not only for phobias, but also for other forms of excessive anxiety, for example panic attacks resulting from traumatic experiences.

Written by Leisureguy

13 July 2022 at 11:03 am

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