All of us have a built-in system to protect us from danger. Without being told, we can tell when somethings feels "off." We know that a car outweighs us and can be dangerous unless we pay attention when crossing the street. We know that some wild animals can be unpredictable. We know that extreme heights make us uneasy because a fall can prove disastrous. This built-in system keeps us anxious so that we can protect ourselves from stuff that harms us. However, sometimes our protective system can become overwhelming which can transform rational understanding to uncontrolled and debilitating fear.

Terms like arachnophobia, acrophobia, and aerophobia give a one-word name for a phobia but fails to describe how difficult it is to live with fear. An expansive list can be found here. The object of our deep set fears can range from animal to nature and from medical to situational. The symptoms for a phobia can be found at this link. Generally, a phobia is a long-lasting fear that causes and immediate anxiety response. A phobia is more than a momentary ‘jump scare,” it involves panic-like symptoms that are out of proportion with the actual danger posed by the situation.

For example, if someone had a phobia of the blue pen on their desk, they might be panicked and in terror despite the fact that it is several feet away and posing no immediate threat and is otherwise harmless. Phobia can cause significant impairment and in some cases make living difficult when the exposure is frequent. Fortunately, there is hope and it is available in Champaign County.

Daniel Giers of Compass Counseling and Consulting offers short-term, solution-focused methods for the reduction or elimination of phobia. Systematic Desensitization (SD) is a widely recognized and accepted treatment modality for moderate to severe phobia. SD works by slowing and carefully increasing exposure of the fearful stimuli to the client. It is safe and effective and accomplished in a controlled environment where YOU are in charge of the pace at every step.

Treatment follows a step-based approach and begins with grounding and anxiety reducing techniques to make a strong, collaborative foundation. Your therapist will help you recognize when you fear-response is becoming too great and will guide you back to baseline. After an assessment and training on grounding, your therapist will have you write out a list of “events” that might take place and ask you to compare them to a level of fear ranging from zero (meaning no fear) to 100 (meaning complete panic).

An example would be someone suffering arachnophobia; a fear of spiders. A list will be drawn up by the client starting at 10 and gradually moving up to 100.

Event Fear Response
Talking about spiders 10
Looking at a photo of a spider 20
Looking at a real spider in a safe cage 35
Holding the cage with the spider inside 50
Letting the spider crawl near you 65
Letting the spider crawl on your pant leg 75
Letting the spider crawl on your sleeve 85
Holding the spider in your hand 100

At each step, your therapist has careful consideration as to potential dangers and your fear response and helps you move up the steps until you find out that what used to cause a fear response of 100 is now controlled. The end result does not necessarily mean you will constantly seek out your now-understood fear, but it does mean you can work through the anxiety and potentially eliminate the anxiety-response.

Please note that SD is only useful for treatment of phobia, social anxiety, and agorophobia and is not intended to work for non-phobic issues. Typically, treatment lasts between 10-15 weeks depending on your response. Booster sessions, or one-time follow ups, can be added months later to keep up your work.

Remember that you are stronger than your fear despite how it currently feels. Compass Counseling and Consulting is here to help you control your phobia and we know you can do it!

Daniel Giers

Daniel Giers is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a psychotherapist working for Compass Counseling and Consulting as a specialist in anxiety disorders. Daniel is trained and experienced in the practice of Systematic Desensitization and can help guide you to controlling your phobia. In 2014, Daniel underwent his own treatment for arachnophobia and over three months of work was able to conquer his fear and now helps with the University of Illinois Entomology Department with their live insect and spider petting zoo.

Call Daniel for an appointment at 217-693-4918 and take control of your fears.

“It works for me and can work for you!”

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