Phobia Therapy in London and Online
We all worry about things in our lives. However, those with phobias experience intense fear about something specific, which affects our day-to-day functioning. At Therapy Central, we have experienced therapists who can help you overcome phobias by drawing upon effective and evidence-based therapy approaches such as CBT Therapy. If you are struggling with a fear of spiders, flying, small spaces or another object or situation, keep reading to find out more about phobia and how therapy can help you.
If you experience an intense fear that is impacting your life, contact us today and work with our qualified Phobia psychologists.
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COVID-19 notice: Online Therapy & Counselling now offered for continued care
Discover Phobia Therapy
What are Phobias?
Is there a situation, object, place or animal that you’ve been afraid of since you were a kid? Or perhaps a new fear that appeared as a result of a traumatic experience? Phobias are intense fears of specific objects, situations or animals such as spiders, snakes, needles, driving, vomiting, heights, public spaces (otherwise known as agoraphobia) and social situations (otherwise known as social phobia/social anxiety). They’re more common than you think – statistics show that around 10 million people have phobias in the UK. 
Phobias can cause significant distress, and you might go to great lengths to avoid the specific object, situation or animal. However, avoidance heightens a person’s fears in the long term and can lead to life becoming restrictive and less satisfying.
What are the Common Types of Phobia?
In theory, anything can become a phobia, especially if it’s associated with a traumatic experience. You might be afraid of something very specific and seemingly harmless, like everyday objects. You might be scared of heights or spiders, which are one of the most common fears. Or you might be afraid of specific situations, such as getting stuck in an elevator. Other typical phobias include fear of flying, fear of open spaces, crowded places or small spaces, fear of blood or social phobia.
All phobias are typically divided into the following categories:
– animal phobias
– environmental phobias (heights, water, germs)
– situational phobias (dentist’s appointments, flying)
– bodily phobias (injections, blood)
– sexual phobias (fear of getting a sexually transmitted infection)
Additionally, we have simple phobias, which are fears about specific activities, situations, animals or objects, and complex phobias that refer to fear of a particular circumstance or situation (for example, fear of leaving the house, social anxiety etc.)
What are the Signs of Phobia?
When you have a phobia and come across the feared object, it puts you into a state of extreme anxiety and panic that can lead to a stress response occurring in the body. This can bring several unpleasant physiological changes, such as:
- Increase in heart rate
- Increase in breathing rate/shallow breathing
- Dizziness/fuzzy head/feeling disconnected from reality
- Muscle tension
Typical thoughts also occur, such as: “I’m going to die” or “I need to escape right now.” If you have a phobia, you might avoid specific situations or places to prevent facing your fear. Unfortunately, this contributes to the so-called vicious cycle of phobia that reinforces the phobia and maintains it over time.
The Vicious Cycle of Phobia
There are two aspects of anxiety associated with phobia: the first is fear of the phobia (the object of fear), and the second is fear of the fear itself. When you have a phobia, it’s natural to want to prevent the unpleasant symptoms that come with it. At first, you come across a trigger that reminds you of feared stimuli. Thoughts such as ‘I can’t cope’, ‘I’m going to get hurt’ arise and lead to anxiety and physical sensations such as sweating, muscle tension, shallow breathing. As a result, you might engage in avoidance behaviours to escape the anxiety. For example, you might avoid going to certain places, use distractions or rely on others for everyday tasks.
However, this tactic only contributes to the problem as it offers a short-term solution that maintains phobias in the long run. When you use avoidance, you convince yourself that you can’t cope with certain fears, making you afraid of the fear itself. This traps you in the vicious cycle of phobias that’s easy to get into but difficult to break away from.
Luckily, the cycle can be reversed in therapy. This is done, for example, by using a step-by-step approach called ‘graded exposure’. This approach will teach you to confront your fears without relying on safety behaviours and decrease your anxiety. You’ll be able to break your phobia vicious cycle and let go of the need to avoid what you fear and fear itself!
What’s the Difference Between Phobias and Other Anxiety Issues?
Phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder. Here are the differences between phobias and other issues:
Phobia vs Panic disorder
Panic disorder is defined as unexpected panic attacks and intense feelings of anxiety. Just like in the case of a phobia, people with a panic disorder might fear the fear itself: experiencing a panic attack. The main difference is that panic attacks aren’t triggered by anything specific. Discover more about Panic Attack Treatment.
Phobia vs Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with OCD engage in repetitive behaviours to cope with the anxiety often caused by intrusive thoughts or images. People with a phobia, instead, use avoidance to prevent encountering feared stimuli. Discover more about OCD Therapy.
Phobia vs Social anxiety
Social phobia and social anxiety are often used interchangeably. In the past, however, social phobia was associated with fear of being judged while performing tasks in public, and social anxiety was associated with nervousness during social interaction. Social phobia can be seen as a particular type of phobia leading to avoiding social contexts due to the intense anxiety these can trigger in you. Discover more about Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment.
Phobia vs Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Phobia is associated with a specific fear, while anxiety in PTSD arises from reminders of traumatic events such as flashbacks. Discover more about Trauma Therapy & PTSD Therapy.
Phobia vs Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
While a phobia is associated with a specific fear, GAD doesn’t have a particular source. A person with GAD experiences everyday anxiety and worries that may be difficult to link to a particular situation. Discover more about GAD Therapy.
Phobia vs Health Anxiety (hypochondria)
People with health anxiety are preoccupied with their health and experience intense anxiety that doesn’t go away even they’re reassured by a health professional. Discover more about Health Anxiety Therapy.
What Causes Phobia?
The cause of phobias can sometimes be traced back to a highly fearful event in the past. For example, your parents might have taken you to see a circus show when you were little, which resulted in fear of clowns. Or you might have fallen into a lake which now makes you afraid of water. However, some people cannot recall such an experience that they can attribute the cause to. If a phobia is more complex, such as social phobia, the cause might be a mix of certain experiences, genetic factors and brain chemistry. Additionally, if your family member has a specific fear, you’re more likely to develop the same fear yourself.
When Should I Get Help for Phobia?
Do you feel like your life doesn’t belong to you anymore? Do you struggle to relax? Do you feel like you’re losing control? Do you feel at the mercy of your fear? Do you use avoidance to alleviate the distress with no luck?
Phobias can prevent you from living a fulfilling life. For example, you might reject a new role because it involves too much social interaction. You might miss out on a great travel opportunity because it requires getting on a plane (which you may be afraid of!).
Sounds familiar? If you are experiencing a strong fear about something, it is causing significant distress and is affecting your day-to-day living, it would be helpful to seek therapy.
At Therapy Central, our phobia therapists aim to gradually and safely expose you to your fear to minimise the distress and increase your wellbeing. Treatment for phobias can be suitable whether the difficulty is mild, moderate or severe. Contact Therapy Central today to speak to one of our experienced therapists.
Can Therapy Help with Phobia?
Yes. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the first treatment choice as it’s been shown to reduce anxiety and phobia symptoms.  With the help of your therapist, you’ll gradually become able to override anxious thoughts and feel more in control as a result. You’ll learn how to stop relying on avoidance behaviours and progressively face your fears to decrease distress in the long run.
At Therapy Central, our therapists draw upon therapy approaches that are shown to be effective for treating phobias. After an initial assessment, your therapist will discuss with you the approach that they think will be the most beneficial to you.
What Does Phobia Therapy Involve?
As mentioned, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the most popular approach to phobia treatment. Since phobias are based on beliefs that certain stimuli are dangerous, CBT targets those beliefs and helps convert them into more realistic ones. This is called cognitive restructuring – you’re taught how to challenge negative thoughts that arise. For example, “I’m going to die” “There’s nothing that can hurt me in this situation/It’s my phobia that makes me believe I will die”. An essential part of the therapy is learning more about phobias, why you experience fear and the relationship between your thoughts and symptoms. This is usually done at the start of treatment, in a phase called “psychoeducation”.
Once you’ve become more aware of how phobias work, the next step in therapy involves learning tools to help you to manage the anxiety you face when gradually confronting your fears. Graded Exposure is a method that aims to decrease anxiety via habituation. For example, if you’re afraid of flying, you might at some point be asked to watch videos of planes taking off or visit a local airport. If you have a social phobia, the first step might be to smile at strangers or ask your flatmates about their day. When you’ve conquered the fear at lower levels and gained confidence, the therapist will increase the level of difficulty, which will make your fear diminish over time.
It might seem surrealistic now, but it’s possible to become desensitised to fear, even if danger is real. Take firefighters, for example; they jump into the fire, risking their lives without thinking twice. If they can do it, so can you (without the fire part!). After you’ve practised graded exposure regularly, you should be able to get back on track and do the things you were not previously able to do, and even more!
What Are The Benefits of Phobia Therapy?
Phobia therapy improves your overall quality of life. You can expect that you’ll no longer have to cancel work trips because they involve flying and you might finally go on your dream holiday. You might be able to take your kids to a theme park and go on rides. You might be able to join that volunteering group you’ve always wanted to be a part of but avoided because you were afraid of meeting strangers. You might finally attend a festival with your partner and spend more quality time with them outside of the house.
In a nutshell, there are various benefits of counselling for phobias, including:
- Reduced anxiety around the feared object or situation
- Feeling more in control
- Improved mood
- The phobia no longer holds you back from doing things that you want to be doing
- More confidence and self-esteem
How Long Does Therapy For Phobia Last?
Therapy is often highly effective for phobias, and some people can make significant gains in up to just six sessions. If you have a complex phobia, you may require more sessions than this. Further support might be needed to tackle the fear and learn additional coping tools to keep it at bay in the long term.
Does Online Therapy for Phobia Work?
Online therapy is becoming more and more popular. It’s definitely beneficial as it can offer help to people who can’t access it otherwise. However, it also raises a question: is it as effective as in-person therapy?
The answer is yes. Therapy conducted online uses the same techniques and principles as face-to-face therapy. While there aren’t studies yet that look at phobia therapy undertaken entirely online, research shows that Internet-based therapy (including online lessons and email contact with a therapist) significantly decreases symptoms of social phobia, similarly to face-to-face treatment. . Importantly, studies do exist that highlight the effectiveness of online therapy for other anxiety issues with the same underlying mechanisms as phobias. For example, one study used online therapy to treat college students with anxiety. The results showed decreased generalised anxiety and social anxiety symptoms. 
Tips To Get You Started Managing Phobias
While you’re waiting to get professional treatment, it can be beneficial to try to manage the symptoms on your own. Although it’s important to note that these tips aren’t therapy, find a few of them below:
Learn to manage anxiety daily
If you’re stressed and anxious every day, it will be more challenging to face your fears. Try to incorporate relaxation techniques into your routine: this could be meditation, affirmation or breathing techniques.
Learn instant ways to calm yourself down: find your happy place
Apart from learning to manage anxiety daily, it’s essential to learn how to manage it when you encounter triggering stimuli. A suitable method you can practise is imagining yourself in your happy place. The first step is to close your eyes, then take a few deep breaths. Then, imagine you’re in a place that makes you happy: it can be a room, an open space, a country, or a memory. Make sure you engage all of your senses: hear the sounds, smell, watch the surroundings and focus on how it makes you feel to be there.
The key to overcoming a phobia is gradual exposure which isn’t easy to do. However, it doesn’t mean you have to get yourself on the plane if you fear flying. You can start small by reading about the mechanics behind flying and watching videos of planes landing and taking off. If you fear a specific animal, you can expose yourself to photos of that animal. If you have social phobia, make sure to engage in social interaction, no matter how small it might seem. Gradual exposure will bring a gradual increase in confidence!
Reach out to loved ones
Chances are your loved ones already noticed you struggle with a particular fear or are feeling especially on edge in certain situations. Having a support network can help you increase resilience, so make sure you reach out to family or friends and tell them how your phobia has affected you and what they can do to help. You shouldn’t face your phobia on your own!
Reach out for Professional Help
If you realise that, despite your efforts, you cannot manage the phobia on your own, it’s time to bring this up with a professional. The first point of contact should be your GP or a therapist specialised in phobia. Phobias are extremely common, and the health professional you’ll speak to is there to help, not to judge!
Our therapists specialized in Phobia Therapy
All of our therapists are qualified psychologists, psychotherapists or counsellors registered with several professional bodies. These include the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the British Psychological Society (BPS), as well as, BACP, UKCP and BABCP.
Our therapists use CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), psychodynamic, humanistic and integrative approaches tailored around your needs to help you deal with your unique challenges and reach your goals.
The Therapist l had was absolutely brilliant with me. He had patience with me and bit by bit l gained a little of confidence to try and get out and go on the buses.
He deserves an award and if l could l would in the beginning l thought how is this person going to get me back on public transport but he did he gave me the confidence l lost and now have back.
I will never forget him and what he has done for me. I wish him nothing but the best in his life.
My therapist was excellent. I highly recommend her and I am truly thankful for my sessions, I left feeling confident and positive.
The mental tools, systems and approaches I have been able to develop with her and use in my life have been hugely beneficial.
Thank you to all at Therapy Central.
The Therapist really gave me the space to talk and express my feelings and fears in a very comforting environment.
She was there not only to listen, but challenge my thinking, guide me during the uncertainty I was experiencing and give me useful and practical tips to improve my mental health and wellbeing. Highly recommended!
Working with the therapist has been a life-changing experience. Each session has been invaluable, helping me gain a good understanding of CBT methodology enabling me to incorporate ways to combat stress and anxiety in my daily life.
The Therapist shows that she really cares and has the ability to make you feel calm whilst discussing any personal issue.
Fees & Insurances
Therapy, Counselling and CBT sessions are 50 minutes long and are usually held at regular weekly time slots.
15 Minute initial
Your Private Healthcare Insurance Provider
Phobia Therapy in London & Online
If you are looking for Phobia therapy in Central London, at Therapy Central we can help you learn the strategies you need to start taking back control from your phobia. With phobia therapy you’ll be enabled to make the crucial changes to bring balance and fulfilment back into your life.
You don’t have to face phobia alone. Start managing it with a phobia therapist in London today. Our therapist have a many years of experience in helping clients with phobia.
COVID-19 notice: Online and Telephone Phobia Therapy and CBT is now provided for continued care, support and safety. We’re here to help. No matter what.
What happens after I make an enquiry?
After receiving your enquiry, we’ll contact you to organise a FREE phone consultation. You will tell us more about your specific circumstances and needs and ask any questions you have. Then, if you want to proceed with therapy or counselling, we’ll match you with the therapist(s) with the best expertise to help you with your challenges and send you a list of their available appointment slots. If you’re satisfied with one of these, we can then go ahead and book your first appointment. You can also request to work with a specific practitioner, and, depending on availability, we’ll try to accommodate this.
What happens at my first appointment with the therapist?
Your first session will likely be different from future appointments. You and your therapist will get to know each other and will begin to build a working alliance. It will be a chance to have the confidential space to express your circumstances, feelings and thoughts and being listened to with depth, attention, empathy and without judgement. Your therapist will likely ask you more about your reasons for seeking therapy and any symptoms you’re experiencing. You may also be asked questions about your past and the history of your issues, as well as how they currently impact your life in the present. Finally, your first session may be a powerful place to discuss what you would like to achieve with therapy and agree on the length, methods, and treatment approaches.
Is online therapy effective?
If you choose online over in-person therapy, rest assured that this has been proven to be just as effective as regular face to face therapy, and in some cases, even more effective. Also, choosing online therapy brings additional benefits, for example, avoiding long waiting times, greater flexibility with appointments, and you won’t need to travel to our practice. You can enjoy online therapy from the comfort of your home.
How long the Therapy/counselling sessions last?
Therapy/counselling sessions last 50 minutes and are held at regular weekly time slots. On occasions, we can allow some flexibility. You can discuss this with your therapist.
Do you offer reduced rates/concessions?
We offer low-cost rates at £60 per session to people with a low income, unemployed, students and NHS workers. Please highlight in your enquiry if you would like a concession rate and how you qualify for this. Depending on the availability of our therapists, we’ll do our best to accommodate your request.
Do you have a cancellation policy?
We have a 48 hours no-fee cancellation policy. However, you will be charged for sessions missed without giving the full notice.
Our Practice in Central London
Our comfortable and confidential therapy rooms are conveniently located 3 min walk from Oxford Circus station, in Central London (see map below). Change starts with Talking!
Dr Raffaello Antonino, Counselling Psychologist
Dr Amy Smith, Counselling Psychologist