Do you turn into a raving lunatic when you see a spider? Are you missing out on business opportunities because you would rather die than speak in front of people? Would you rather drive 23 hours to visit your parents than take a two-hour plane ride? If so, you are not alone! The good news is there’s help out there.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. When this fear becomes debilitating and prevents you from living your best life it’s time for help. As a licensed marriage and family therapist in South Florida, I work regularly with clients who suffer from anxiety and fears. It’s rewarding to see clients succeed in overcoming these obstacles.
I personally suffered from a debilitating phobia of flying on an airplane. I avoided planes for 15 years. Luckily, I was blessed to work with one of my colleagues who introduced a therapeutic technique that changed my life. I’m proud to say after 1 intensive session using RRT (Rapid Reduction Technique), I hopped on a plane for the first time in 15 years from Florida to California (a 5 hour flight) and had an amazing time. In the past, I tried working through this fear with no success. Don’t give up! With the right technique, the right professional and a readiness on your part, anything is possible.
I am so grateful there are techniques out there for individuals who suffer from fears & phobias. I decided, because of my personal experience and my background as a therapist, it was extremely important for me to put together a compilation of the most effective techniques those in my field use to help people overcome their burdensome phobias. I reached out to my esteemed South Florida colleagues (respected as foremost experts in their fields) to discuss various treatment methods to overcome phobias.
Jason Wasser, LMFT – Neuro Emotional Technique (NET)
I see anxiety as a personal GPS that can show a person they are out of sync with their potential, be it through actions or their belief system, which guides them in decision making. The more anxiety, the more out of sync, the less anxiety, the more potentially aligned you are with your purpose. I use Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), a clinically researched mind-body stress reduction modality that incorporates muscle testing and Chinese medicine meridians to locate and remove neurological and physiological imbalances (think neurofeedback using your own body instead of a computer) that lead to stress, anxiety, trauma, and self-sabotaging beliefs. The stressful events we face today are often subconsciously reminding us of old stressful events that have happened to us in the past. This can cause a recurring stress pattern that we can anxiety. This kind of stress pattern is called a conditioned response. NET focuses on eliminating specific conditioned response patterns so people don’t have to keep experiencing a continual negative reaction to similar circumstances and give them proactive emotional and physical options to move forward towards their goals.
Jason Wasser is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Neuro Emotional Technique Practitioner and Certified Business Coach in Ft. Lauderdale. He is the owner of The Family Room Wellness Associates www.thefamilyroomsfl.com (954) 324-3677
Natalie Hatjes, MS, CHt – Hypnotherapy
Many people suffer needlessly from phobias and may not be aware of how hypnotherapy can provide relief. Some fears are helpful and keep us safe, but uncontrollable and irrational responses that keep us from engaging in life can limit us. During a hypnosis session, which involves inducing a relaxed, dreamy state, the part of the mind which is maintaining the phobia is accessed. These are the thought realms where fantasy and reality are blurred – that’s why simply thinking about a phobic stimulus brings on a panic reaction. Within this experience, facets of the phobia are rearranged, and a new response is created, all while in a relaxed and calm state during the whole process. All of this is done safely, with helpful suggestions that are based on a person’s specific needs. For example, if you have a fear of flying, you would imagine yourself on a plane feeling calm and looking forward to your destination. You would feel safe every step of the way, with reminders of the safety precautions in place at the airport and also on the plane itself. Following hypnosis for a phobia, people report that they are aware of whatever used to freak them out, but it now no longer bothers them. Whether it’s a fear of spiders or snakes, cotton wool (yes, some phobias are quirky), flying, driving or something else that you no longer need, hypnosis works…quickly!
Natalie Hatjes, MS, CHt is a Sexologist and Hypnotherapist in Boca Raton, FL with a passion for helping her clients live their best lives, feeling free and full of joy. Natalie specializes in sexual health and sexuality and is also the creator of Reconnect Restore Reclaim; Sexuality Affirmation Cards.
Margie Mader, LMFT, CHT – The Rapid Reduction Technique (RRT).
When someone comes into my office and says they are suffering from anxiety, panic attacks or phobias, I ask them one question. “When did this start?” We can usually pinpoint it back to at least one traumatic incident that has impacted their system (mind, body, and spirit) so severely that it keeps replaying and therefore causing discomfort. The brain is not trying to traumatize them, it is trying to get rid of the discomfort through the reoccurrence of symptoms. This is where Rapid Reduction Technique can be extremely effective and useful. The Rapid Reduction Technique, developed by Dr. Bill Tollefson, was created to rapidly reduce the emotional and physical pain associated with a traumatic memory so it stops manifesting through symptoms such as panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, negative thoughts, difficulty concentrating, etc. I was fortunate enough to get trained by Dr. Tollefson, in a trauma program I worked in, utilizing this technique to get to the core of the symptoms and stop them from reoccurring.
This is how it works in a nutshell. RRT is based on the premise that we leave pieces of ourselves in a memory, when something traumatic, out of our control, or scary happens. As a result, we are incomplete or in pain (physical and/or emotional). The goal is to go into the memory and rescue the self you left behind, healing him or her. If the client completes the RRT, they actually feel the symptoms that were created to cope with the trauma, immediately shift or go away i.e. panic attacks, insomnia, etc. If they aren’t able to complete the RRT, the therapist finds out where they “got stuck” and works with them on self-forgiveness, anger, etc. to move past the barriers. Either way, they get information on how to overcome their pain and the opportunity to work on it.
RRT is the most effective technique I have ever come across. I have experienced using this technique myself and I have used it with clients for over 19 years. I love how astonished clients are afterward when the symptoms they have grown to see themselves as – disappear.
I highly recommend the Rapid Reduction Technique for anyone suffering from any type of anxiety, physical ailment, or trauma. The results are truly astounding, effective and rapid.
Margie Mader, LMFT, CHT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a National Board-Certified Hypnotherapist. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Women’s Studies from FIU. She also has a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from NOVA Southeastern University. She has been working as a therapist for over 23 years, and in private practice for 17 years. Margie is the founder, owner, and clinical director of Growth and Healing Wellness Center, a holistic private practice in West Fort Lauderdale. Her specialties include but are not limited to trauma, anxiety, eating disorders, couples’ issues and transitions in life. She works with children, teens, and adults. Margie also leads seminars and training for corporations on productivity, mindfulness, and “being your best self”. She is passionate about helping people connect to the highest potential within themselves and find fulfillment.
Luna Medina-Wolf LMHC, NCC, MCAP – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This therapy is an empirically based technique that is integrative in its approach. Research suggests it is effective in the treatment of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders. EMDR also helps in treating related disorders such as anxiety, panic, phobias, complicated grief, substance abuse, depression, and more (EMDR Therapy – EMDR International Association, 2018). While utilizing EMDR in my therapeutic work for the past three years, I have witnessed people completely heal from the aforementioned conditions, or at least display a significant decrease in their symptoms. In relation to phobias and fears, EMDR has been discussed as a helpful technique, mainly when the fear/phobia originates from a traumatic event/memory, which tends to provoke high levels of anxiety. Research shows that in-vivo exposure tends to be the most helpful technique in situations where the fear/phobia has no specific event that originated it. However, research shows that utilizing EMDR has also yielded significant improvement when used correctly (Jongh, 2015). There is a specific protocol for the treatment of fear/phobia through EMDR, which includes an in-vivo exposure component at the end of it to test the efficacy of treatment. I would highly recommend EMDR as a treatment modality for any anxiety-related disorders.
Luna Medina-Wolf is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a National Certified Counselor and a Master Certified Addiction Professional. She completed her Dual Masters of Education in Mental Health Counseling and Rehabilitation Counseling. Luna has a strong background in working with individuals who are struggling with substance abuse, who have experienced trauma and those with disabilities. Luna’s approach to counseling pulls from several theories to fit her clients’ needs. Luna is certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and is a Reprocessing Therapist (EMDR) and is trained in Trauma Incident Reduction (TIR) to assist clients in processing/healing from traumatic events. Luna is also trained in Gottman Level 1 and 2 to assist in marital issues and improving relationships. Luna believes that change is possible and that each client has the power and can learn the skills needed to better their lives. Luna is fluent in English, Spanish and Hebrew.
If you feel irrational fear or a phobia has become extreme and interferes with day-to-day living, you should consider professional assistance. There might be a relatively easy fix or the need to utilize a number of techniques to break the cycle. The light at the end of the tunnel is these methods that can produce life-changing results!
Susan Block is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in marriage, family and individual therapy. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University in 1997 and completed her Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2004. Also an active member of The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), Susan Block practices in South Florida