It is not surprising that D.T. Max believes phobia cannot be cured. I began working for people who were phobic about flying in 1980. It was distressing to see phobics in our flying course at Pan Am who, during the "graduation flight" did exactly what we taught them, and got no relief at all.
This set me on a quest to find something that would work. While still an airline captain, I complete grad school, and post graduate study at three different institutes in the New York area, always looking for something that would work. I didn't find it.
At least not until simply happening upon something that did work. But why it worked was not clear until 2000 when functional MRI research by Allan Schore and others showed that the infant is soothed by a visually communicated empathic connection with the mother, or other caretaker.
We now can cure phobia by connecting each element of the phobia to vivid recall of a moment in which the person experienced an empathic connection with another person.
Treatment only becomes difficult when the person's life has been so emotionally isolated that the person, initially, can find no moment of empathic connectedness at any time in his or her life.
The reason this treatment is so effective is that we are born with an instinct to connect. When the infant connects with the mother, profound calming results.
Though the client will not remember such early moments of profound calming, once we find a later one that is remembered, this powerful calming can be associated with the things that trigger a phobic response.
Association between the two is established behaviorally. Once established, there is a neural link between what once triggered a phobic response and the powerful calming of vivid recall of a moment of empathic connectedness.
In the past several years, using this treatment for flight anxiety and phobia, I have found not one case which could not be effectively treated by tapping into this powerful instinctive source of calming.
Thomas C Bunn LCSW
Mar 5 2007 - 1:01pm