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Ask Dr. Colby Your Own Question

Dr. Colby
Dr. Colby, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 85
Experience:  Licensed psychologist in WA. Areas of practice are clinical psychology, forensic psychology and clinical neuropsychology.
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hi there i want to know how u can help me with driving phobia

Customer Question

hi there i want to know how u can help me with driving phobia .i mean like driving on highways going across bridges things i use to do i drive but not on the highway for long periods of time. I tried everything from relaxing tapes .Had an acciedent afew years ago was hit from behind and i stop driving for a while but was still nervous about driving when \b started back .Need something to help break the this bad habit
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Colby replied 2 years ago.

Dr. Colby :

Hi, this is Dr. Colby. Phobias can be hard to break. Can you tell me more about what you have tried and what kinds of professionals you have contacted, in the past, for help?

Dr. Colby :

Are you still there? Are you still wanting help?

Customer :

yes

Dr. Colby :

So, you mentioned relaxation tapes: where did you get them? Medications: which ones and from what kind of provider? "Feel the Phobia," guided by what? A mental health provider? A little more detail would really help me make suggestions that are more likely to be helpful. Thanks.

Dr. Colby :

In order to move this along, the treatment of choice, currently, for specific phobias is Exposure Therapy, which is a form of behavioral therapy. The patient and therapist work, together, on developing a hierarchy of situations ranging from very little anxiety produced to the highest level of anxiety produced. The therapist and patient then work, together, to expose the patient to each of these situations in a slow and progressively more intense sequence.

As the patient experiences each new anxiety producing situation, and also sees by direct experience that nothing bad occurs, the associative connection, a learned connection, between the presumably anxiety producing situations and the experience of anxiety (voiced, in effect, as fear that a bad outcome will result upon exposure), is associated newly with no bad outcome and, therefore, no increased anxiety.

Years ago, this was attempted using imagined experiences; that was called Systematic Desensitization. While the technique was effective in some cases, it did not generalize well to the real-life situation, even when periodic "real life" trials were interspersed. The technique of exposure therapy starts and ends in real life situations.

There is a chance that, while this is a treatment of choice, the therapist will have trouble billing insurance for it because of the location: out in the world, rather than in a hospital, home or office. However, some therapists have been successful in convincing third party payers to go along with it because it has been shown to be so effective.

This technique is really better than medication simply because the phobia is a learned connection, and the technique "reprograms" the brain into a new learning outcome. Medication masks the anxious feelings but usually also dulls the senses and may have other negative side effects.

The only real drawback to E.T. is that, in going out into the world, all contingencies cannot be controlled. So, it is theoretically possible that the feared event could recur. Therefore, great caution is taken to make sure to the highest degree possible that this does not occur.

Your State Psychological Association, or one of the Behavior Therapy websites, should be able to locate for you someone who has this as part of her or his practice. It is the intervention I recommend most strongly because it is empirically based and has been substantiated as an effective treatment technique through systematic research.

If this answer fills the bill for you, giving you a reasonable avenue to pursue, please hit the "accept" button and also provide me some feedback about the service provided to you. Thanks for contacting JustAnswer!

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