In psychotherapy, there are three main types of phobia including social, specific and agoraphobia.

Phobia is an anxiety disorder. Commonly, I have found that those who develop phobias tend to handle their own fear by avoiding it or by living with it; facing the stimuli which we see as threatening.

Not just a therapist, also a fallible human being

As a human being, not just a therapist, I know a fair amount about phobias from my own life experiences as I was attacked by a dog at age of four. From that faithful day when the incident occurred, I refused to share my presence with any animals remotely similar to dogs hence cats, rabbits and pretty much any other animal except fish I was fairly successfully avoiding. That said, it became harder for my parents to constantly scan the environment and help me avoid my ever-growing fear. My brothers took the opposite approach which was to set me up with any pet owners at any given opportunity. They probably meant well, but their ‘no nonsense’ approach didn’t achieve anything but further retraumatising. 

Bored of my own phobia

I frankly got sick of my own phobia around the age of 16 hence I put together a plan to go on a holiday with a friend of mine who had a dog at her grannie’s house. My attempts of gradual desensitization didn’t work therefore I went for ‘all or nothing’ strategy. I feared embarrassment of asking my friend to take me back home if I couldn’t cope with the fear as I wasn’t quite old enough to travel by myself long distances. My motivation was high and I certainly didn’t want to ruin my friend’s holiday. Back then I obviously knew nothing about REBT or any other therapeutic modality that could have helped me ease myself into executing my plan.

Standing with my discomfort

Anyhow, my friend and I found ourselves at the destination, and I was soon faced with a small poodle who was jumping and japing at me as expected. I was breathing through my own discomfort as I felt each touch of the dog’s paws on my thighs.  I will never forget the mantra I was repeating to myself : “Jana, you can turn around and run as usual, or stand here for a few more minutes until the dog gets bored of you. You have A CHOICE! You have A CHOICE! Somehow, I felt freed by the thought of having a choice and having the flexibility to act upon my decision regardless of the outcome.

I found myself contemplating my choices long enough for the dog to get eventually bored of jumping and japing. His interest in me diminished as fast as my fear of him. I didn’t realise back than that I was employing REBT technique of disputing my demanding beliefs and awfulizing thoughts there and then.

Rationalisation efforts paid off, but I am still concerned and that’s ok by me!

My mental rehearsals of my preferential thoughts and the benefits of conquering my fear eventually diminished my long-standing anxiety. In other words, my perception changed, and I experienced healthier cognitive, behavioural, and even physiological responses.

It is important to stress that my phobia didn’t disappear completely. I still experience discomfort when a dog I don’t know is running towards me, but I can certainly accept that automatic reaction which is triggering concern rather than anxiety. I can live with that and more importantly I can live in the world full of dogs, cats and many other wonderful creatures with legs and tails.

Only a few years later I could fully appreciate why CBT is the gold standard treatment for anxiety disorders (including phobias) by the NHS. Not only that, but lots of research highlights the efficacy of hypnotherapy in the treatment of the same hence combination of both therapies can bring even faster results.

How can I choose from many different schools of psychotherapy?

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) versus Psychodynamic therapy (PT)

REBT is particularly good for specific goals, and it works more effectively with clients who can appreciate more directive as well as self-investigative style of the therapy, particularly outside of the session. Home assignments are an important part of REBT and clients are encouraged throughout the therapy to challenge their thoughts, behaviours and emotions in order to gain more effective outlook regarding the objective of the therapy. The general and specific responsibilities connected to the client’s beliefs are also discussed in the first stage of the therapy.

I had learnt from my own private practice that some people find REBT techniques helpful, others dislike it, feeling they are being ‘talked out’ of their emotions. Some find that REBT’s focus on rational thinking feels too clinical and less ‘human’.

There are always pros and cons, but choice is yours

Some PT, but also REBT clients find it difficult to accept that factors outside of their awareness influence their thoughts and behaviours. Others are reluctant to think about their childhood or the relationship that develops with their therapist. PT is less structured than REBT and some prefer the more focused and directive approach of REBT therapies.

One powerful aspect of PT is that a client’s (unconscious) conflicts that are causing problems in their everyday life and relationships emerge in the therapy relationship itself.

Treatment of Specific Conditions

PT is particularly good for dealing with general distress, psychosomatic conditions, and personality patterns or tendencies, such as repeated difficulties in professional and other relationships.

REBT, as a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, is taking into consideration client’s healthy and unhealthy negative emotions and the focus is not so much on a more positive way of thinking, rather a more rational/flexible outlook, which in turn will lead to healthier emotional, behavioural and in some cases also physiological outcomes. REBT is a good match for treatment of anxiety and depression. That said, other emotions related to anxiety and depression such as shame, guilt, anger, jealousy, and envy also get to be debated and put under the spotlight. 

I am a REBTer with an open mind for other modalities

You can already imagine I prefer the model of Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy, as I appreciate the benefits of a more structured therapy session, which focuses on the present rather than the past.

Many of my clients can also identify with the philosophical context of REBT, which clarifies the roles and importance of personal responsibility, fallibility, and advocating self-interest. An overarching theme of self, other and world acceptance philosophy underpins the whole REBT School of Psychology.

I also recognise that an effective relationship between the therapist and client is a steppingstone to self-discovery and learning, therefore the rapport building is a very important process. That said, I appreciate the theory of transference and contra-transference derived from the psychodynamic school of therapy, as well as the inevitable impact our history has on our current mental state.

Are you ready to change your direction? Or would you like more information about the subject of REBT, and clinical hypnotherapy, then I would love to hear from you.

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