A few years ago I received a phone call. “Hi this is Chris Sands, producer at the BBC. Would you come in and talk about your work this Sunday, live on the air?” I thought “Blimey that’s my birthday, do I want to work on my birthday?” I decided that it might be good to attend to raise awareness of my work and earmarked 1 – 2pm for the show. During the programme I mentioned that I specialized in seeing clients with phobias and anxiety conditions. Both the show host and producer’s eyes lit up and they asked if I would happy to return to work with members of the public live on the air. At this point I had no idea that I would be appearing for 26 consecutive weeks working with all kinds of phobic problems including public speaking, bird phobias, spider phobias, fear of heights, fear of flying insects among many other conditions.
Anyone who works in the field of Hypnotherapy, NLP or talk therapy knows that the real test of any practitioner’s skills is seeing clients in private practice. TV shows with celebrities like Paul McKenna and Derren Brown have popularized the idea of hypnosis and all manner of instant change. Live client sessions are of course quite different to any other situation as you never really know what is going to happen. During these radio sessions I was acutely aware that each week over 50,000 people would be listening in to hear if “Nick helped the client!” and I wanted as always to ensure each client received the best possible attention.
A phobia has been described as “an intense but unrealistic fear that can interfere with the ability to socialize, work, or go about everyday life, brought on by an object, event or situation” The secret to changing this response is not to analyze the problem, but rather to change how and person thinks and then feels about the problem. Any anxiety is created by four main ways –
1. What a person sees externally
2. What they hear externally
3. What they imagine or picture internally
4. What they think or say to themselves internally
I have never found the other two senses of taste and smell to be frequent triggers for the phobia; it’s mostly always the other four factors. In NLP the traditional “fast phobia process” is a good way to assist with phobias. This works especially well if the phobia is triggered by what a client sees or imagines. However I have found that often the trigger for the phobia is not simply what a person sees but rather what they then think to themselves. For example when a person sees a spider and feels fear it’s often not the picture that creates the fear but rather the person thinking “Oh my god!” in an unhelpful anxious tone! Over 90% of all phobias I have treated to date have this kind of auditory trigger and almost all the BBC clients responded well to changing this unhelpful thinking pattern.
During the 26 weeks I learned a great deal about how to work quickly and efficiently in resolving these problem states and never to assume anything when working with clients. A good practitioner has a flexibility to adapt and respond to a client’s needs and never to assume anything! Unusual phobias I have treated to date include fear of red brick walls and sharp edges and fear of balloons among other problems.
Seeing clients every week in Leeds, Manchester and on Skype has taught me a great deal about how people create these conditions and I teach these approaches all around the world. What I find fascinating is that it doesn’t matter if I am teaching medics in Japan, the public in New York or am presenting at a major conference in Spain, the triggers for these problems are always predictably exactly the same! To date I have seen literally thousands of clients with phobias and anxiety related problems. Most issues can be resolved in just a couple of sessions producing a very welcome and much needed improved quality of life.