What to Expect in CBT Treatment Series: Specific Phobias
This blog series will help you understand what to expect in Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) for a variety of different anxiety disorders, OCD, and PTSD. No matter what you are seeking help for, it can be very scary to start treatment. I assume most of my patients enter their first appointment with me with anxiety. I assume this for several reasons. 1. You are taking a big first step in your life to change something that may feel impossible to change; 2. Most of my patients experience an abundance of anxiety on a daily basis and new experiences make us all feel anxiety.
My hope is that this blog series helps you to have a better sense of what to expect in your treatment if you choose exposure-based CBT interventions. First and foremost, the first appointment will be a lot of data collection. In order to determine how I can be helpful, I must determine what your problem looks like. You can plan on me asking you a ton of questions. My goal is to determine what diagnoses you meet criteria for (to ensure I can treat those diagnoses) and to instill some hope in you that I can help you. Just like we would hope our doctors would evaluate what is broken before treating a broken bone and then tell us how they can be helpful, I want to use a scientific approach in my practice and give you some hope that the science works. Although a one size fits all approach does not work for everyone, I apply all evidence-based techniques or techniques that have been supported by ongoing research. In this series, you will find the general what’s and why’s of treatment with me. Also, if you are struggling with the motivation to get started, I include some information on why it may be worth it to take a chance on this treatment.
Specific Phobia Treatment
What is a Specific Phobia?
Extreme anxiety about specific situations or objects (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Phobias range from fears of driving, flying, animals, insects, natural environment (such as storms), and elevators, to needles, vomiting, and medical procedures. They can be incredibly impairing and impact many aspects of your daily life.
What will we work on?
Why Engage in this Treatment?
I am assuming you are reading this page because you are tired. Tired of structuring your life around your phobia? Tired of feeling unable to engage in certain parts of your life because you are afraid you might encounter your feared object or situation? Maybe your phobia is starting to impact your sleep, your relationships, and generally your ability to enjoy your life, without the persistent fear in the back of your mind (Grayson, 2014)? Maybe you are unable to travel or to drive or to perform day to day tasks without fear? If so, you may want to give treatment a try.
Why this treatment works?
At some point, it is likely you were living your life without constant fear related to your phobia. However, over time, your amygdala, the threat detector in your brain, has falsely programmed your response to your feared object or stimuli. Over time, we will create new associations to override the old ones and this treatment helps you see, by facing the fear, that it is not as threatening as it feels now.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Craske, M. G., Antony, M. M., & Barlow, D. H. (2006). Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic:
Therapist Guide (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
Grayson, J. G. (2014). Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A personalized recovery program for living with uncertainty. Berkley Books.