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Arachnophobia – a case study

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Sarah Ariss

Winter 2016

Arachnophobia – a case study

A Case Study – permission from the client to publish this study has been given, however any identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the client.

Rapport with a client is key to success.

S has a spider phobia. On her first arrival I was warm, welcoming and worked on mirroring and matching her body language to build up rapport. Having chatted for a little while I asked about her problem state and how I could help. Conversation flowed naturally, but I directed it through the use of Context, Structure and Process questions.

First – Context questions.

Have you always been afraid of spiders? Are there times when you are not afraid? Are there times when the problem is better, or worse? Are you afraid of all spiders or just particular types? Her answers included words that helped me discover her Representational Systems. For example, she talked about her feelings a great deal, which made me recognise her as being a Kinaesthetic – “I freeze. My nerve endings stand on end.” She also talked about the voice in her head. Her eyes flitted be- tween looking down to the left and down to the right, strengthening my belief that she was both Kinaesthetic (K) and Audio Digital (AD).

Talking, she shuddered at the thought of spiders. She started to feel afraid around the age of 5 and had been afraid since then. Her fear & reactions changed according to who was around at the time. When her husband was home, she would shout for him to kill the spider. When alone she would find a strategy and deal with it. With her young daughter (even more afraid of spiders than her) she would act as protector and catch or kill the spider.

We found it interesting that her reaction changed according to who was around. At times, she was able to deal with the spiders. In terms of Transactional Analysis, she changes between the role of adult, child and parent. She particularly disliked the element of surprise. Small spiders were fine to pick up in a tissue, but any that were larger than a couple of centimetres in diameter, particularly those with “solid” bodies and legs, were frightening. She exhibited Trance Phenomena, such as Positive Hallucination – “Everybody is frightened of spiders to some degree”.

Sensory Distortion – “My whole body freezes when I see a spider” and Age Progression and Negative Hallucination “I can’t see myself ever being unafraid of spiders.”

Structure questions analysed the sub-modalities of her problem.

I asked if she minded closing her eyes and imagining a recent time when she had encountered a spider, so she could describe where in her body she felt the fear. It was centred in her legs and feet. I asked if it had a shape? She described a white, smooth egg. Imagining the event, she saw it in an associated state, in colour and moving. She rated the feeling at a 9 out of 10. Using a system called the Meta Model we then drilled down into the details.

Process questions showed the chronology of her problem.

She talked through how her problem starts – seeing a spider – through her process of dealing with it. What did she do in response to the presence of a spider? How does she know when the problem is over? What has to happen for her to feel ok again? How does she feel about herself when it is over? She experienced a heightened state of awareness and anxiety when she became aware of a spider, especially a “solid spider”. She needed the spider to be removed and killed so that it would not come back.

She felt that it would be “impossible” for her to pick up a “solid spider”, even in tissue. She could only relax when the spider had been removed, permanently. Then she felt “relieved” and “safe”. She needed to know where the spider was as the surprise element of them appearing was vital. She mentioned her first significant event. A spider crawled, unexpectedly, over her sister’s foot and both her sister and mother had reacted with shock and fear, screaming and scaring her.

The Solution.

Having listened to the Context, Structure and Process of her problem, I then asked her to describe to me her solution. She told me all the things she did not want to be happening, but I encouraged her to think of the positive. She wanted to feel relaxed, calm and able to “carry on as normal”, when in the presence of a spider.

Having taken her case history, I did a relaxing induction and then spoke positively of the work that we would do together, stressing that she had all the tools needed to reach her desired outcome.

I told her that much of the good work would take place between sessions and that it would be fascinating to hear how she had got on when we met next. Summing up the session we agreed on her solution outcomes. She nodded as I summed up, a non-verbal confirmation that she understood and agreed.

Client engagement between sessions increases their success rate.

I prepared a Wordweaving download, which I sent to her. To do this I used keywords and phrases that she gave me during our discussion about her ideal solution. I also included the use of Trance Phenomena, those trance states that occur when our problem is present and utilised them to help produce the solution that S wanted.

Wordweaving is a way of creating change by linking the client’s capabilities, environment and behaviours with new beliefs connected to the client’s identity and existing beliefs and values. By using a cause and effect principle we can then effect powerful and positive changes at an unconscious level. I asked her to listen to this download between sessions to help her to move towards her desired outcome.

Feedback helps guide your therapist’s choice for your next session.

A week later she came again. She felt she had been braver, had found herself thinking about her reaction to spiders and more calm in her approach. There also seemed to be fewer spiders around, a possible example of Negative Hallucination.

Dealing with the most significant event connected to the problem.

S had mentioned a significant event that happened when she was about 5. I decided, therefore, to use Timeline Reconsolidation. This context intervention would alter her perception of the first event where she felt a fear of spiders. Then pass that altered perception along her timeline to now. Having experienced this significant event at the age of 5, her understanding of it was that of a child’s mind, not fully able to comprehend.

We worked through Timeline Reconsolidation. S imagined a timeline and when asked to imagine moving along it she decided to move herself along above it. When I asked her to shut her eyes, finding the first event connected to her fear, which by going back to it she could let go of for good, she went back to the event when she was about 5. She stayed above her timeline, dissociated, describing the significant event, looking down at the event and describing it and then thinking if she could see a connection between that event and her fear. Could she pass any learning to the child below that by learning it could allow her to let go of that fear? I asked this until she could think of no more learning to pass on.

Next I asked her to move to a place before the significant event, look down at it and towards the future. Could she feel the fear? She reported that it had gone and I asked her to imagine the difference that difference would make, as that child grew to the adult she is now, free of the fear. Floating above her timeline she made her way back to the present, noticing events that used to be connected to the significant event and letting go of the fear. Then she imagined going to a future event with a spider. She agreed that her feeling of fear was no longer there. Looking for physical signs of agreement as well as verbal signs she nodded and smiled, imagining that future event. Non-verbal agreement importantly is the communication channel of the unconscious mind and without it more work would be needed.

Creating a better future.

Completing the Context Intervention, I continued to talk positively, using Post Hypnotic Suggestion (PHS) to prime S to look for positive changes in her everyday life, linking this change in behaviour and belief with the Timeline Reconsolidation. As she left I enthused about how well she was doing encouraging her to be aware of the changes. I asked her to continue listen.