This assessment is to find out about your recent and past history with travel and all of the concerns you want to address in our meetings, as well as your travel goals. It may be a long time since you have done the kind of traveling you want to do, or you may be traveling but want to do something about the intensity of the anxiety you feel. At our first meetings, we want to hear every worried thought you have about travel.
We’ll also want to learn what kinds of situations generate the fears. Here are some of the situations that we have generated anxiety for our clients: turbulence, take-offs, heights, safety, feeling trapped; driving on the freeway, bridges, overpasses, and tunnels; parking, turning left, merging; being separated from loved ones for any length of time; feeling alone; being afraid of having a panic attack and losing control. This list is not exhaustive: travel can spark any existential fear imaginable.
And, we’ll want to find out if your fears trigger physical symptoms of anxiety. It’s not unusual for a person with travel anxiety to experience rapid heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing comfortably or swallowing normally, shaking, sweating, tight muscles, or feeling the need to run to the bathroom. A feeling of complete dread often goes hand in hand with these symptoms. You may be very familiar with anticipatory anxiety that begins when you make reservations for a trip. We will teach you effective strategies to cope with the worried thoughts and the physical symptoms you experience.
By the end of the second or third session, we will give you our initial impressions and recommendations for an individualized program for you. We explain in some detail the stages of the treatment, including overcoming your fear of fear, learning to soothe your anxiety, and using your skills to expose yourself gradually to the situations you fear.
We will teach you about the mind-body connection, and you will learn strategies to relax your body and to shift your thinking from scared thoughts to more objective and relaxed thoughts. Easier said than done? This stage is like learning to type or play an instrument. It’s easier than you might think because you choose the strategies you like best. So that you can review these strategies between sessions, we will make you your own personal recording. We will discuss ways to practice the strategies between our sessions while you do your usual activities. With that kind of practice, these new skills will gradually become automatic long before you travel.
If you are a fearful flyer, you will benefit enormously from the material we teach about planes and pilots, weather, turbulence and many safety features. We have various materials for you to use and all are easy to understand. We get great reviews from our clients about the desensitization videos we have made to use with clients in our office.
When you are ready, will work with you to plan steps to take outside the office to gradually expose yourself to the situation you are working to master. We can help you plan to do it with a support person, by yourself, or with us.
Everyone asks us at the time of the first call how many sessions this program takes. That is based on the intensity of your fear and how long it has been a problem for you. It is a highly individualized program. We do like to begin with weekly meetings whenever possible, and after two or three meetings, we will have a good idea we can share with you about the length of the program that we think will be beneficial. If you need to travel very soon, two sessions a week can be very helpful. If you are coming from a distance to meet with us, it may work best for you to schedule one or two meetings on the first day and another the following day.
Travel may be the one area of your life that you want to change. But it is sometimes the case that there are other areas of stress in either your professional or personal life that you want to address with us. Many people develop a phobia, or anxiety intensifies, at a time of loss of a relationship, worry over health issues of one’s own or a significant other, unhappiness about work, or many other life changes.
If that is the case for you, as experienced psychotherapists, we can maintain a focus on travel but also look at other issues that are stressing you if that would be helpful to you.
We regret that we are unable to respond to requests from residents outside DC, Maryland, and Virginia. If you live in other states, we can see you only if you are able to meet with us in our Maryland or DC offices. We do not have recommendations for specialists in other states. You might Google "phobia specialist near me" to find help in your state.
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