Dr Frank Salerno, PhD Montreal Psychologist 514.515.9350 Westmount Location

Dr Paula Bennett, PhD Montreal Psychologist 514.482.3327 NDG Location


Montreal Therapist for Phobia

Phobia Counselling & Cure

What is a phobia?

A Phobia is an intense, persistent, and unreasonable fear resulting from being exposed to a specific object or situation.

There are different types of Phobias:

What causes phobias?

Biological Explanation: Research suggests that a genetic predisposition is involved in the development of phobias (e.g., Kendler et al., 1992).

Behavioral Explanation: Phobias can be caused by simple conditioning. That is, an animal or situation (e.g., a dog) is paired with a trauma (e.g., dog bites child). The result can be that the child develops a deep fear of all dogs including dogs which are harmless.

Modeling or Vicarious Learning: Phobias can be learned by observing others being fearful.

Informational Transmission: Children can develop phobias by being told stories in which they should fear an object or situation (Annas, 1997; Mineka et al.., 1984).

How can CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) help for phobias?

Behavioral treatments for phobias are quite effective. Approximately 60-80% experience significant improvement. Only about 10% or fewer relapse.

There are 3 main forms of behavioral therapy for specific phobias: (a) Systematic Desensitization; (b) Exposure or reality testing; and (c) Modeling.

Systematic Desensitization: This behavioral treatment involves 3 phases, relaxation training, developing a list or hierarchy of feared situations, and counterconditioning. The client goes into deep relaxation and simultaneously imagines the least feared situation on his list. In doing so, the once feared situation is now paired with a response that is incompatible with fear (i.e., relaxation). This countercounditioning is repeated until the particular situation in question can be imagined without provoking any fear. A similar process is repeated with each item in the hierarchy until the client can tolerate being in the most feared situation.

Exposure: The client agrees to imagine or stay in the presence of the phobic situation for a long time. For example, a person with dog phobia might sit next to a harmless dog for 1 or 2 hours. In doing so, the client tests the legitimacy of his fear. When the feared catastrophe does not occur the phobia is usually extinguished. This can sometimes occur in a single 2 or 3-hour session.

Modeling: The client observes someone else perform the feared behavior. For example, someone with a fear of water watches a swimmer approach a pool of water, touch the water, and then dive into a relatively shallow pool. The client may be asked to describe what he sees, then to approach the water, touch it, and finally to jump into the pool. This procedure is repeated until the fear decreases significantly.

  1. Animal Phobias (e.g., dogs, spiders, etc...)
  2. Situational phobias (e.g., flying, elavators, bridges, tunnels, etc...)
  3. Natural Environment Phobias (e.g., water, heights, darkness, storms, etc...)
  4. Blood-injection-injury Phobias
  5. Other phobias (e.g., death, venereal disease, etc...)