Psychological therapy for phobia

Dr Lara Lagutina, London SE16, UK



What is phobia?

    Phobia is defined as a "marked and persistent fear, which is excessive and unreasonable" (DSM-IV). There are many types of phobias, depending on the object or situation that is feared. Some common types include agoraphobia, social phobia, phobias of insects or animals (e.g. spiders or dogs), claustrophobia and phobia of flying or driving. Some people with phobias also experience panic attacks. A person with a phobia often tries to avoid the feared objects or situations, which brings them temporary relief from fear and anxiety. However, in the long term avoidance generally makes the fear worse, as it does not address the roots of the fear, and overtime the amount of feared situations can increase, making life more and more limited.

How can psychotherapy help with phobia?

    A number of therapies have demonstrated effectiveness in working with phobias. Among them, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing are probably the most well-known and recognised. Somatic Experiencing can also help with managing fear and other overwhelming experiences. Overall, psychotherapy can be instrumental in exploring and working with the roots of fear and anxiety as well as in learning strategies for managing the associated difficult feelings.


See also Social Phobia, Anxiety and Panic Attacks


For information about the practical aspects of therapy, such as length of sessions please see FAQ.