An NLP Technique For The Treatment Of Phobia
By Karen Hastings
If you have a phobia that impacts significantly on your life, that leads to you avoiding situations, feeling overwhelmed or highly anxious, then you may be interested in this article about an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) technique. I have found this treatment technique, at my NLP and Hypnotherapy practice, Edinburgh, very useful in helping people recover from intense and impairing phobias. It is also used to help people deal with memories from traumatic events.
What we know is that when someone has a phobia or has experienced a traumatic event which still bothers them in the present, they tend to regularly re-live or replay their phobia or trauma by seeing a picture and then getting all the bad feelings that go with that picture.
I have treated many people for phobias at my NLP and Hypnotherapy practice in Edinburgh. For example, Sarah came to see me at my NLP practice Edinburgh, because she was due to give a reading at her best-friends wedding and was terrified of public speaking. The wedding was six weeks away, and Sarah was constantly feeling anxious and dreading the event, which she felt guilty about. Sarah was also frustrated at how her fear was holding her back at work.
After carrying out a consultation with Sarah it became obvious that her fear began during childhood as she had several strong memories of feeling highly anxious in situations that required her to speak or be the centre of attention. For example, Sarah would often replay her memory of trying to make herself vomit in the toilets at a children’s party so that she could avoid helping a magician in front of the other children.
Sarah has many vivid visual memories related to her phobia that caused her anxiety but often people will have one image and associated feelings that they tend to replay. During our therapy sessions, at NLP and Hypnotherapy, Edinburgh, I explained to Sarah about the Fast Phobia technique (also called the visual/kinesthetic dissociation technique). This process involves replaying the visual memory of the anxiety provoking incident but in a completely different way then Sarah had been used to. By replaying the memory in a different way, the loop of seeing a picture (V) and then experiencing unpleasant feelings (K) is broken. This enables the person to process and recode the event, to give it a new meaning, so that it is no longer a problem or is at the very least significant less anxiety provoking.
This technique works best with people who are able to visualize well and since this was the case with Sarah, we set to work on each of her events that she associated with her phobia and which still cause her anxiety. Prior to working on each of the events, Sarah was asked to rate how anxiety provoking each memory was.
In the first part of the phobia treatment, Sarah was asked to imagine that she was in a cinema sitting in a chair watching the screen. On the screen was a Black and White movie of a traumatic event she had chosen to work on. So Sarah would be watching a movie of herself in the event. Before she did this however, Sarah was asked to imagine herself floating upwards towards and into the projection booth, so that she was now going to watch herself in the cinema seat, watching a move of herself! The purpose of this part of the phobia technique is that is enables the person to review the movie but dissociated from the feelings.
These are very important changes that allow a new perception for the client. Changing the color image on the screen to black & white reduces the intensity of the movie being watched and suggests that it is old and in the past. By stepping into an outside observer position, Sarah is removed from the event, enabling her to watch the event with it feeling much less threatening. Sarah was then asked to play the movie through remaining dissociated. This enabled Sarah to think about the memory without having the fearful feeling for the first time.
During the second half of the treatment process Sarah was asked to imagine leaving the projection booth and walking up and stepping into the movie screen. Once inside the screen she was asked to change the movie to color and told to watch the movie backwards as if on rewind. This time Sarah was associated into the event, seeing through her own eyes. Sarah was told to rewind the movie as quickly as she could. This part was repeated several times until Sarah was able to play the movie backwards faster and faster. This time we played music at the same time. The chosen music was from a cartoon and was quick paced and comical. Both parts of the process were repeated several times. Sarah found that the movie became light hearted and non-anxiety provoking. In fact when we worked on her wedding speech she found she imagined the audience warming to her and herself feeling confident and relaxed. She even had the audience dancing along!!!
Through using this technique Sarah was able to re-process all of her scary memories of speaking events and felt much more confident and ready to deliver her wedding speech. Other techniques such as anchoring were also taught to help Sarah on the day. NLP and Hypnotherapy Edinburgh uses the Fast Phobia Technique to support people in overcoming phobias.