One of the unique offerings of the Center is its Intensive program. For those people who do not live near the Center, the Intensive Program provides the same therapy as our workshops, but in a condensed time period. The success rate (“clients were much improved”) of the program is very high-as is the motivation of those who make the commitment to overcome their fears. Below is a story of one of those motivated people.
Scott recently attended our Intensive Program. Living too far to attend one of our weekly phobia workshops, Scott signed on to overcome his claustrophobia and worked with two of our Phobia Counselors. Because of his work commitments, Scott’s Intensive schedule was divided among two to three days for two weeks. Phobia Counselor Jackie Kupper interviewed Scott for this article.
How did you find the Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center?
I was at the hospital with a family member and saw the kiosk in the lobby with the Anxiety & Phobia Center information.
How long had you been experiencing anxiety issues?
For eight years, which started with a general uneasy feeling of small places. No particular incident triggered it.
Specifically, what concerns were you seeking help for?
Claustrophobia and flying were my major concerns.
What were your expectations?
To improve a little bit each session.
What did you and your Phobia Counselors do during your work sessions?
We started by making a list of what I wanted to accomplish and started on that list in baby steps. I went to the train station and watched many trains go by, I watched the subway, I went to the airport and even purchased a ticket and went to the boarding lounge to sit there. I had to get comfortable before “taking my anxiety to the streets.” I don’t think you can sit in an office and overcome fearful situations. You have to get into the situation to learn to deal with the challenges.
New York City is full of challenges with subways, traffic jams in tunnels, etc. Tools really helped me expose myself to these situations and get through them. I worked with my counselors two to three hours several days each week. I needed to push myself to do this as I was about three hours from home and from my beloved 20-month- old daughter and wonderful wife.
What aspects of the program were most helpful to you in your recovery?
All the field work done with my superstar coaches, Judy Shaw and Barbara Bonder-working in the subways, tunnels, trams, traffic jams, elevators. Using tools helped me enter these situations.
Was a week’s worth of treatment sufficient?
It is a foundation, and regular and consistent work must be done every week going forward. Counselors provide the road map but the individual must take the journey.
You have to be like an athlete training for an Olympic gold medal. You have to be relentless and practice. You have to stay on your regime each and every day to win a gold medal-otherwise you are not achieving your potential. In this case, you might slip back and start avoiding things again.
When clients begin to face their fears, they experience inevitable anxiety as they practice in their phobic situations. Was this exposure worthwhile?
Yes, absolutely. Things are doable now. I am competitive by nature so I treated it as a competition with myself. One day I even did eight tunnel trips in two hours, said goodbye to my counselor, drove out of my way over a bridge to drive back through New York City just to take my ninth tunnel of the day (by myself, without my counselor) to get home.
I would suggest to try and not hate the process. Keep a diary so you are reminded of your progress and accomplishments.
I used to try to keep anxiety away, to suppress the feelings, but I wasn’t getting any better. I learned that I needed to expect the levels of anxiety and that’s when I felt better.
The pain was 100% worthwhile. Life is too short not to live it to the fullest. I saw a man in a wheelchair get on the tram one day when I was practicing and I thought: I bet that man would trade places with a phobic person in a second.
What is your advice for others?
Every day that you wait to enroll in this outstanding program you are not living a complete life. Take the chance, get motivated and make these challenges a thing of the past.
To have the blessing of physical well being and health is a gift-I learned, after taking this program, that I didn’t want to waste it.
I hope that thought will motivate others to take that first little step. This program is spectacular, and it is changing my life.
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