Phobia & Fear Treatment
I have had the pleasure of successfully helping people overcome their fears and phobias for the past thirty-five years. Below, you can find useful information about phobias and how I work to help my clients and patients overcome their fears and eliminate their phobias.
Some phobias are truly debilitating. Examples include: agoraphobia, claustrophobia, and germaphobia. Even a fear of dogs can keep a person locked up in their home, or create a constant state of anxiety when a person is out in public places. Many people live a life of relative solitude, simply because they are not aware of , or afraid of getting the help they need to overcome their phobia.
Less debilitating phobias, still restrict a person’s movement, and thereby restrict professional and social opportunities. Examples include: fear of driving, flying, new places, and mazeophobia – the fear of being lost. Many people do not realize that their fear experience is a psychological disorder that can be cured.
Many individuals and families are significantly restricted in enjoying the pleasures of life and normal healthy life-cycle experiences, as well as deeply meaningful desires and goals. Some women give up the opportunity of having children because they are phobic of pregnancy or childbirth. A man may give up his professional goals and dreams because he has a phobia of failure or rejection.
Even when the phobia is not debilitating, it can interfere with the normal flow and function of personal, social and familial activities. For example, a family may not be able to go on a special vacation because one of the family members has a fear of flying or water.
Usually a person knows on a conscious level if s/he has fears or phobias and if they are negatively affecting his/hers life – either on a day to day basis, or in relationship to specific events, experiences, or triggers.
Individuals have very different interpretations of their experiences of being uncomfortable, afraid, or phobic. Most people’s feelings of discomfort are considered by them to simply be part of their nature or something normal – but certainly not a disorder, that can be corrected. Many people live with and suffer from phobias without even recognizing that there is something wrong.
Everyone has particular things they are afraid of and many of us are phobic about something. There is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed. It is a good thing to get help and release ourselves from the discomfort and restrictions.
It is important to realize that even serious phobias that have festered around for many years can be solved. It is usually a matter of understanding the dynamics that create such problems, and utilizing the appropriate techniques needed to solve them.
How do fears and phobias happen?
There are many sources of fears and phobias. Briefly most fears and phobias either come from traumatic experiences or are learned from others. Sometimes they can be caused by how we relate to our thought or feelings, or from something that we learned. Sometimes they are acquired as the result of a response or reaction to a painful event or negative pattern. Sometimes a person can develop a phobia as an unconscious defense mechanism, – an attempt to protect oneself from the possibility of re-experiencing a traumatic event.
A traumatic event can often cause a fear or phobia. Sometimes the patient is consciously aware of the event – in which case it can be directly addressed. However, often the traumatic event may have been repressed from conscious memory.
During a traumatic experience, a person may enter a spontaneous hypnotic state in which a negative response or pattern is learned and imprinted (one trial hypnotic learning).
A person often makes a subconscious decision in that moment of trauma, which can be debilitating for years or even a lifetime. S/he can experience all kinds of limitations of activities and experiences, which in turn have more negative effects, such as low self-esteem, and lack of self-confidence.
Children can also acquire fears and phobias from watching a scary movie, hearing a disturbing story, watching the news, or even from having a nightmare.
It is important to note that children can acquire phobias by observing their parents’ and others’ modeling of their own fears. I present below an interesting case of one of my former patients, who became phobic of roaches due to her grandmother’s fear.
How I work with my clients and patients – The Therapeutic Process
My goal is to help my clients/patients heal from fears and phobias and their consequences as quickly and as comfortably as possible.
I work with my patients as partners. I give home-work, exercises, and also provide phone and other E-support, when necessary or even when requested just to have some extra support and guidance.
My interventions are focused, clear, healing, interactive and caring.
I provide the understanding and skills needed to solve problems and achieve goals. I do my best to provide interventions that are brief, effective, and lasting. I prefer treatment to be intensive and short-term, in order to get the job done efficiently and save my clients time and money.
I create, with the partnership of my patients, a safe, protected, caring and trusting environment in which they can explore their past and present experiences, as well as their thoughts feelings and physiological and behavioral reactions to them.
I often use hypnosis (only when my patient agrees) and self-hypnosis as part of the treatment process. Hypnosis usually quickly and accurately discovers the root cause of the problem, as oftentimes the cause of the problem may have been a traumatic experience (or even a non-traumatic experience) which has been long forgotten or, repressed from consciousness. Usually I use hypnosis together with C.B.T. (cognitive behavioral therapy), self-hypnosis and other therapeutic tools.
With each of my patients I create therapeutic strategies, utilizing a variety of tools and approaches in order to ensure that the treatment is efficient and effective. The process that I describe below which I used to help the above patient (fear of roaches) is one that I often use to help patients overcome their fears and phobias, along with their consequent symptoms.
Discovery of the source of the problem is very important and makes it much easier to eliminate them. The source of fears and phobias, (as well as stress responses, panic attacks, stuttering, etc.) – whether remembered consciously or locked and blocked in subconscious memory for many years, can usually be discovered. Hypnosis is an excellent tool to accomplish this more effectively and quickly.
Once we discover the source of the problem it is significantly easier to solve. Even when a phobia and its consequential symptoms (stuttering, fear of speaking, etc.) is locked in the client/patient’s subconscious for many years, causing a variety of negative consequences, the proper psychological intervention can heal the trauma and eliminate the patient’s difficulties.
Many of the patients who come to work with me have already tried all kinds of treatments that did not work. Many patients come to see me after trying other therapists and therapies. Many have been in therapy for months or even years without significant results. They were not successful either because the source of the problem was not discovered, or because the therapist did not have the right therapeutic tools and understanding of the client’s dynamics.
These patients often feel hopeless, tired and disappointed, and often say hypnosis is the only thing they have not tried yet.
I recommend to all of my clients and patients to not continue in a process with a therapist or doctor that is not working for them, in a relatively short period of treatment. Many people tend to blame themselves for the lack of progress. If you are really motivated to do the therapeutic work, there is rarely a valid reason to not see progress. Find the right therapist and approach for you.
I tell my clients/patients that within two sessions it should be pretty clear if I am the right therapist with the correct approach for them.
When the therapist and the client/patient understand the dynamics that created the problems or symptoms, and know how to utilize the techniques needed to solve them, good results are attainable more quickly.
Please note that traumas like the Holocaust, rape, abduction, extreme violence or abuse, etc. require more time to work on and heal. Yet, even in these situations significant healing and relief from symptoms can be attained.
Age regression and other hypnotic techniques can be used to identify and understand the dynamics of the fear or phobia, as well as to heal the patient of any emotional and psychological pain that may be present. It is also used in the elimination of the presenting problem.
My clients/patients are in a state of self-control and awareness when I work with them with hypnosis.
Although hypnosis is a wonderful therapeutic tool it is certainly not required or obligatory, and phobias can be cured without it.
How I help my patients overcome their phobias when they are caused by a traumatic event
This fascinating process I learned from the work of Milton Erickson, M.D., who is considered by many to be the best hypnotherapist of all time.
I utilize a variety of tools during the therapeutic process. Included may be hypnosis, C.B.T. (cognitive behavioral therapy), N.L.P., gestalt work, desensitization, hypnotic rehearsal, expressive therapy (art/music/movement) and others. (Please see /my-tools-introduction/)
First, I ask my patient for information that is available on a conscious level, to learn about the nature and style of my client, my client’s history, the nature of the problem, and the therapeutic goals.
We discover and review the actual traumatic event and source of the problem, as well as understand its dynamics.
I help the patient identify and learn the skills and understandings that s/he did not have (but needed) at the time of the traumatic event, that could have been used, to prevent or reduce the trauma experience, as well as to cope and respond more healthfully.
I then use hypnosis to bring my client back in time (age regression) to a few days before the traumatic incident, and be there with his/her-self, as the loving helpful big brother/sister. My patient then prepares him/herself at this earlier time for the upcoming event, and teaches what is necessary to have the event be NOT TRAUMATIC.
Then, with proper preparation and rehearsal, my client re-experiences the (formerly traumatic) event utilizing the newly acquired tools and understandings in order to respond to the event in a healthy logical self-supporting, healthy way.
Next, we do hypnotic rehearsal, to decrease the likelihood of having a negative reaction, and increase positive reactions and responses to future challenges. We also implement other helpful therapeutic things, like desensitization, verbal expression, future pacing (N.L.P.) and more – (the explanation for these are too long for this article).
Finally, my client learns how to use self-hypnosis to reinforce the process and to gain self-mastery over eliminating negative psycho-emotional states and behavioral patterns, and learns to create and strengthen positive emotional-states and behaviors.
My clients and patients thereby acquire freedom from fear and increase of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. They usually overcome their phobia in just a few sessions.
Fascinating Case Examples with Full Explanation can be viewed on Examples from my Clinical Practice page >>
My approach to helping children & teens
To learn about the specific considerations related to my work with children and teens, please see my page Children & Teens – Counseling & Therapy.
Safety considerations regarding hypnosis
Hypnotherapy and hypnosis are usually very good treatment interventions. However, hypnosis is contraindicated under certain circumstances. For example, hypnosis is usually contraindicated for individuals who suffer from severe psychiatric disorders, such as psychoses and schizophrenia.
A proper evaluation of each patient must be made before hypnosis is used. It is only at the request of the patient and at my evaluation and discretion that hypnosis will be used.
Case examples to help you to understand how I work:
- A woman came to see me with a phobia of roaches that was so extreme, her friends had to go into her apartment each night when she came home for work, to make sure there were none inside.
- A man came to see me who suffered from needle phobia for many years. He needed to have an injection, however, he had a fear of needles – but he had no idea why.
(Detailed case description and explanation appears below)
Roach Phobia – Case Study
A professional woman in her twenties told me that she had an extreme fear of cockroaches. She explained that the fear was so extreme, that she could not go into her apartment when she came home from work unless she had a friend first go inside and check that there were no roaches around.
In this particular example it only took one session to alleviate her phobia. As I have explained, hypnosis is a wonderful way to quickly find out what the source of a problem is and to fix it.
We utilized a number of techniques, including hypnosis, self-hypnosis, C.B.T. (cognitive behavioral therapy), age-regression, desensitization, N.L.P. (neuro-linguistic programming), and hypnotic rehearsal.
I showed her how to enter hypnosis first for the purpose of learning how to create a comfortable relaxed focused connection with herself and her subconscious. She was able to do that relatively easily and quickly. (Many people are able to relax and enter hypnosis in just a few minutes. Some people need more time. Others need even more time if they have serious trust issues, however, that is usually alleviated within two sessions.)
I then asked to ask her subconscious mind to let her know at what age she first remembered experiencing anything having to do with a cockroach or similar insect.
She went back to being a toddler, and to her great surprise she found herself sitting on grass playing with a beetle like it was a toy or a pet. She was actually enjoying herself and having fun. After a couple of minutes her grandmother came by and freaked out that she was playing with a beetle.
My client then understood that her extreme phobia came from her identification with her grandmother and her grandmother’s signals and messages regarding cockroaches.
We then used an approach called C.B.T. We discussed the logic of her thoughts and beliefs, and how they related to her emotions and behaviors – regarding the presenting issue. We looked at and evaluated what was reasonable for her to experience as a child, and what would be reasonable to experience as an adult. We also discussed the unreasonable beliefs she acquired as a result of the traumatic experience.
Next, I explained to her how to utilize a hypno-therapeutic technique that I learned from Milton Erickson, M.D. This technique uses hypnosis to edit past negative experiences, and replace them with positive ones.
This process within a single two hour session included:
- We evaluated what thoughts, beliefs, understandings, emotions and other resources, she needed in order to be able to remain calm and not be afraid when her grandmother got upset.
- We implemented techniques to integrate these new resources into my client‘s mind and emotions.
- I then explained the hypnotic process in advance so that my client can understand the process, feel comfortable, reassured, and consent to it. I explained to her that we were going to use hypnosis (of course with her permission) and that she was going to go back in time, to meet with herself as she was a child, and that she would be there as her supportive older sister. Also, that I would accompany her to give her support and ensure that she has a positive experience.
- We planned to go back (hypnotic regression) to a few days before the traumatic event with her grandmother. She would introduce herself to the toddler and explain that she came from her future in order to help her.
- I helped my client practice and prepare herself to go back into her past and to develop a safe, loving, supportive relationship with the toddler and explain to her what was going to happen in a few days – however, with some important differences from the original event.
- My client was going to make sure that the toddler had the necessary resources and understandings so that when her grandmother arrived and got upset and afraid, the toddler would not have any fear (and therefore there would be no trauma or resulting phobia.) In fact, she told the toddler that she would explain to the grandmother that everything is fine, and that there is no need to worry.
- When my client felt ready, we implemented the hypnotic regression and our therapeutic plan.
- During the regression we established that the toddler understood that it’s perfectly fine to play with beetles or roaches that are safe, and that her grandmother over-reacted.
- We then did hypnotic rehearsal with the toddler, so that she could experience her future positive response – before it happens – in order to learn and reinforce the desired healthy response – and eliminate the possibility of her re-experiencing the negative response that caused the phobia in the first place.
- When the toddler was ready to experience playing with the beetle and was prepared for her grandmother arriving at the scene and overreacting, we started moving forward in time – hypnotically.
- The grandmother came and over-reacted, the toddler remained calm and the grandmother was reassured. My client re-experienced a past traumatic event – with NO TRAUMA.
- We then utilized hypnosis and N.L.P. to rehearse my client’s going into her apartment feeling confident.
The treatment was successful.
Of course I also explained that it is important to learn about what may be dangerous regarding certain roaches so that that she could protect herself from harm – in a healthy adult manner.
Please feel welcome to call me if you have any questions.
Almost all of my clients and patients see improvement within a couple of sessions. In fact I tell all of my new and prospective clients and patients that they will know within two meetings if I am the right therapist for them.
Of course specific results cannot be guaranteed, and vary from client/patient to client/patient. Motivation and positive participation, as well as suggested homework are required of the patient. The work is a partnership between therapist and client/patient.
I want to give my patients the best treatment I can, and create the best treatment strategy for each patient. To do this, it is important for me to have the necessary information regarding their condition, medical history, and past and concurrent treatment, with other health professionals. I, therefore, request consultation with my patients’ medical doctors, when I treat them for medical or psychiatric diagnoses, or at least a copy of their medical report, so that I can offer the best services possible.
At times hypnosis or another modality of therapy is not recommended or appropriate for a particular client/patient. Whether hypnosis or another modality is utilized in the treatment of my client/patient is determined after consultation and evaluation of the client/patient, the specific issues presented the preference of the client/patient, and the client/patient’s medical history.
Regarding hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy and hypnosis are usually very good treatment interventions. However, hypnosis is contraindicated under certain circumstances. For example, hypnosis is usually contraindicated for individuals who suffer from severe psychiatric disorders, such as psychoses and schizophrenia.
A proper evaluation of each client/patient must be made before hypnosis is utilized. It is only at the request of the client/patient and at the evaluation and discretion of Dr. Sheldon that hypnosis will be utilized.
Often Dr. Sheldon consults with other physicians treating his client/patient as part of the evaluation and the creation of the proper treatment strategies, as well as to ensure that there is safety, harmony, coordination and consistency among the health professionals treating the client/patient and the treatment modalities utilized. Dr. Sheldon will also ask the client/patient to provide information regarding any medications or other drugs taken.
Recording of all sessions and consultations is requested. Recordings are confidential (of course) and are solely for my use only.
Regarding Testimonials and Endorsements: Of course what
is written in testimonials and endorsements and professional
recommendations represents the author’s experiences and opinions.
All of the above is for the well-being of the client/patient, and to make sure that all work is done with high ethical and professional standards, legally, effectively. I want to give excellent service and wants each of his clients/patients to be as successful as possible.
If you have any questions, please feel welcome to contact me.
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