Therapies that can help you with your fear of flying fall into three main groups. Those that deal with behaviour (see our courses), those that deal with the unconscious influences on our lives, and the humanistic ones that empower people through self-realisation.

fear of flying therapies

There is one main therapy which aligns with our view of overcoming a fear of flying and which was the one recommended by The World Fear of Flying Conference held in Montreal some years ago. We include the others in case a fearful flyer thinks that they may be more suitable for their needs. We recommend a course based on the principles of CBT. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. On our ground course, we relate reactions of the amygdala to the reptilian, mammalian and human brain processes. Thoughts cause feelings. Feelings cause behaviour. Whet you think determines how you feel, and how you feel determines how you behave. This is clearly demonstrable and that is why we favour using it as the basis of what we do. It is just the underlying style of our courses. It is NOT CBT therapy as such.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This is our preferred method to help with the fear of flying because it is simple, straight forward, easy to understand, and is demonstrably true. The three-part process is simple. Thoughts generate emotions, and emotions determine how we behave. Therefore it suggests that if we change our thoughts we can change our behaviour. Here’s a very simple example; Suppose we have a fear of cats, if we see a cat we may ‘think’ that it might scratch us. That makes us ‘feel’ uneasy. Because we feel uneasy we would ‘behave’ in a way to stop it coming near us. The relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions are obvious. Part Two of our book Fly without Fear has an exhaustive explanation of how CBT can help with almost every aspect of your fear of flying.  
It doesn’t address feelings we have from childhood or traumatic events (that is not its intention) but for most people, a behavioural approach is very effective. The information on this website and on our courses is designed to re-structure your thinking and therefore change the way you feel about flying. 

CBT will define individual thoughts (fears) more precisely and separate them. In this way each fear can be dealt with independently until a more holistic view of flying can be found. On this website, we to use this approach. First, we discourage emotive language, then we change myths for facts and expose fearful flyers to the evidence With the removal of incorrect thoughts (wrong facts), feelings and behaviours will change. 

This information should not be considered as an accurate or complete description of CBT. It is a very basic description solely for the benefit of people who have a fear of flying and want to know something about the various forms of therapy available. We like it because it is demonstrably true.

Psychodynamic Counselling

Psychodynamic counselling is perhaps the least likely to be needed because only a small percentage of people are anxious about flying because of a childhood experience or a sub-conscious process. However, it is a very effective and successful form of therapy. Only the person who has a fear of flying can decide which is the most appropriate to their needs and of course, it is possible that a combination of therapies might provide an answer. Though practitioners are likely to deny that of course.

Psychodynamic Counselling: The fear of flying is an observable phenomenon. In flight or the thought of flight brings on symptoms of anxiety and distress. This is measurable, observable and undeniable. The causes are not so easily measured, nor available for observation. A fearful flyer, who has endured an uncomfortable flight and has been frightened in the normal everyday sense of the word, might have a good reason for being apprehensive about flying again.
It wouldn’t be surprising to hear that someone who is scared of heights or who is claustrophobic also has a fear of flying. There seems to be an obvious cause and effect. If it is possible to re-assess the perceptions and build confidence in one’s self, it’s likely that the fear could be overcome.

What PDC addresses are the causes of fears when there is an historic or chronic element. PDC deals with the unconscious processes that cause fear. In general, this is achieved by developing a relationship with the therapist, who can then gain an insight into unconscious relationships that have evolved from an early age.

Development and change happen when early memories make sense of what is happening currently in the patient’s/client’s life. A change of behaviour occurs as awareness of the unconscious influences are recognised. If the rules governing life can be seen as the results and influences of the past, the ability to control reactions to them become possible.

The success of PDC depends upon the relationship between counsellor and client.

This information should not be considered as a medically accurate or a complete description of PDC. It is a very basic description solely for the benefit of people who have a fear of flying and want to know something about the various forms of therapy available.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is based on the way we see and interpret things, which is particularly relevant to a fear of flying. It suggests that we each ‘see’ life experiences in different ways. Interestingly we describe things according to the way we see things, how we interpret things and how we ‘code’ them into our memory. Some of us use factual words, some use imagery, some describe events and things by the way it makes them feel. You will see that the descriptions used on our Audio CD Set use some NLP principles about how we use words.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming started when Richard Bandler and John Grinder combined their areas of expertise in mathematics and linguistics and produced a system of modelling behaviours based on templates of ‘expert’ performances. They reasoned that if you want to excel at something you need to compare what you do, with what the experts do and construct a model of behaviour and performance that bridges the gap.

Fundamental to that process is the way individuals ‘see’ things. Our constructions and perceptions of the world we see can be done in many ways. Our ‘coding’ (interpretation) of the world in words, pictures or emotions has a bearing on how we behave. We have always been of the opinion that the way a fearful flyer describes flying has a bearing on how they feel about it. The use of emotive language strengthens the prejudice that causes it. Our products are in line with both CBT and NLP.

The fundamentals of NLP are:

  1. What do you want to achieve or what outcome do you want?
  2. How sensitive are you to what goes on around you?
  3. How well can you adjust your behaviour to achieve what you want?
  4. How well can you get on with other people?

Whilst overcoming a fear of flying is a personal fear, you’ll need to have effective interaction with other people, so although point four is not quite so obvious a feature, it has some bearing on success. This is why we promote joining the fear of flying community.

One of the things that the NLP therapists say, is that the map is not the same as the territory, in the same way, that a cast list is not the play. A menu is not the meal. Your fears are not the flight, your anxieties are not the reality and if you can make your perception of flying align more with our ‘model’ than your own.

If you feel that NLP will help you to overcome your fear of flying, don’t forget to have your questions and queries about flying answered first. Facts are vital … do not build your strategy on misunderstandings or ignorance.

TFT and Hypnotism

We have no experience of using either of these methods in helping people to overcome their fear of flying. However, we believe that a sound understanding of aviation is needed before these therapies can benefit the fearful flyer.

To me, it would appear that in the event of these therapies not working on a flight, then the fearful flyer could become vulnerable again. The facts about flying must be the basis for developing any lasting strategy. If there is a fundamental belief that a plane will fall out of the sky if the engines stop, nothing will prevent that thought surfacing. If there is a fundamental belief that the wings can fall off, then that will make itself known at times of stress.

Inevitably, for success, you must be the ‘owner’ of your strategy, you must be aware of how you have come to the conclusions that you have and you must know how to answer your own questions when they arise.

My belief is that if hypnosis is so powerful why is all our learning not done under such circumstances? Would you feel safer if pilots were trained to stay ‘cool’ because of a thought planted in their minds or would you prefer them to have learned those skills through training? It is those sorts of questions that make me doubt the universal efficacy of these methods.

Finally, this important point is worth considering, if you were climbing Mount Everest who would you go with – a hypnotist or an experienced mountaineer? To what extent would tapping meridians on your body help you to scale an ice overhang?

Best wishes,

Captain Keith

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