Be unafraid, be very unafraid

Published 22 April 2009

anxiousfacePsychologists at the University of New England are offering free treatment to people suffering from phobias.  The Phobia Elimination Program seeks to eliminate both the fear and the avoidance sufferers experience as a result of their phobias.

The director of the program, Dr John Malouff, knows first-hand the debilitating effects of having a phobia. He suffered from a terrible fear of water and diving from an early age and as a result did not learn to swim until he was an adult.

Dr Malouff said that through a program of gradual, controlled exposure — the same techniques as will be used in the Phobia Elimination Program — he was able to overcome his fear and is now not only a confident swimmer, but was recently able to go down a waterslide for the first time in his life.

“Phobias can be extremely limiting,” Dr. Malouff said. “If you are terrified of giving a speech, for instance, you can probably never work as a teacher or rise within an organisation. Fear of flying may prevent you travelling overseas.”

“While some phobias may concern things that can be dangerous — spiders, snakes, heights — others are about things that are usually harmless. Some people are scared of grasshoppers, for instance.”

“All these kind of phobias can be treated using cognitive behavioural therapy, and that is what we’re offering in our program, with clinical psychology students providing the treatment under my supervision.  Our goal is to eliminate phobias in three sessions.”

Anyone interested in entering the Phobia Elimination Program can make an appointment at the UNE Psychology Clinic in Armidale on (02) 6773 2545.