Fear is our body’s natural way of protecting us from a potential threat.
But when fear gets in the driver’s seat, it can keep us from the people and activities we value most.
So how can we help our clients take back control from their fears?
In the video below, Lynn Lyons, LICSW explains a creative technique for helping her client face her fears.
Take a look—it’s about 4 minutes.
Ms. Lyons: I had a woman come to see me and she was in her late 60’s and had a long history of anxiety and depression and it had been on this med and that med and had been to therapy in 1970 and then again in 1983 and sort of managed it okay. Really unexpectedly with no sort of cause ¬– and people like to try and figure out what caused the anxiety, and I find that to be interesting but not really necessarily accurate or helpful – she had developed a fear of driving, particularly on the highway, which she had been able to manage for a few years. She had moved back to New Hampshire, she had actually driven across the country and moved back here, so it wasn’t really a problem a few years ago, but here came this fear and it was just the same church, different pew. Her daughter was going to become pregnant soon, so her daughter was at the time when she was planning to have a family. Her daughter lived about 15 miles away, and the reason she came to see me was, “This fear of driving is going to get in the way of me being able to see my grandchild, and so I need to address it.” So, she came to see me and she had worked previously on it, they had done a lot of breathing and calming stuff, which was sort of helpful, but not all that helpful. The therapist had had her sit in the garage in her car and do her breathing, and had given the instruction of, “When you feel calm, then back out of the driveway and head on your drive.” Well that’s not good – how many times had she gone on a drive? Zero, because how many times had she felt calm and confident sitting in the driver’s seat? So, we did the same thing, we pulled her worry out – she named it Edith or something – and gave a voice to Edith, made Edith into this character. I often ask people, “Is there somebody in your life who, when they talk, you’re like, ‘Errr. . . Not such good advice’? Is there somebody who, when they talk, you sort of nod politely, but you don’t listen to what they say? Let’s fashion your anxiety after that.” I said, “I want you to get in the car, and I want you to invite Edith to go along with you, turn to Edith – literally turn to Edith and say, “Edith I’m glad you’re coming along on this drive, fasten your seatbelt please. I’m not putting you in charge, I want to see my granddaughter, you’re not particularly invested in that, so you can come along as a passenger but I’m taking charge.” And Edith is going to be there, you’re going to feel like this, and then you’re going to put the car in reverse and you’re going to drive. She came back to see me about two weeks later and she said, “I don’t know if I’m doing it right.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “I didn’t really feel all that anxious when I got in the car. I know I’m supposed to invite Edith along and feel my worry, but I didn’t really feel that badly.” And she’d gone on, like, five drives in the time that I had seen her.
Dr. Buczynski: As Lynn explained, naming and addressing their fears can help our clients begin to break free from them. Now, we’d like to hear from you. How do you help clients work through their fears? Please leave a comment below, and thanks for watching.
Sometimes it can feel like our fears are in control of us.
But Lynn offered us an example of a creative technique for helping clients take back control from fear.
In the meantime, we’d like to hear from you. How do you help clients face their fears?
Please leave a comment below.