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. 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 this first meeting, we want to hear every worried thought you have about travel.
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
A Program Designed for You
To design your program, we’ll want to know your current travel goals and whether there is a specific date you have in mind for making a trip. It’s usually best if we can begin our work together quite some time before any trip if your anxiety is high. But at times that is not possible, and we sometimes hear from people only a couple of weeks before a trip. In these situations, it may be possible to schedule a few meetings immediately, and clients tell us later how much this helps.
What to Expect
By the end of the first session, we can give you our initial impressions and recommendations for an individualized of a program for you. We explain in some detail the stages of the treatment beginning with the first building blocks for relaxation and “thought-stopping”.
In the second session and continuing into the third, you will be learning relaxation and thought-stoppping 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 relaxation cassette tape or you can choose a C.D. made by Judith Willging. This will be yours to keep. 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 pilot training, 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. In fact, your coach is likely to be co-director of the program, Jean Ratner, who was a fearful flyer herself. She is now a very comfortable flyer.
The Option to Plan a Trip
If you want to make a trial trip with us by plane, train, or on highway roads as part of your program, that can be arranged. The first trip is often a short one. These trips are usually made on an individual basis. You will have our undivided attention with all the assistance and encouragement you may need. If you are traveling without us, we can arrange a cell-phone appointment so that we are “on call” for you by phone when you are at the airport.
After the initial sessions, your priorities and time frame for travel determine what happens next. You may need to address various phobia issues. For example, if claustrophobia is an issue for you, after the initial sessions, we can do desensitization meetings in a place in which you feel claustrophobic, such as in an elevator. Many of our claustrophobic clients have avoided elevators for years before they begin our program and feel very doubtful that they could learn to handle this. Also visit us at www.claustrophobia-treatment.com. But, they learn to! If you have a fear of heights, desensitization sessions with us might be in a tall building beginning on lower floors and working our way up.
Anxiety about driving is very common, and we have worked with many people both in our office or on the road. After initial office sessions to learn coping strategies, we can drive with you. We try to schedule sessions where we work on the road in the actual areas where you experience difficulty. That may be on winding roads, at intersections, handling overpasses or bridges or the Beltway. The steps will be gradual; for example, if you need to drive on the Beltway, we would start by going only one exit driving with you. First we would be in the front seat with you, later in the back seat, and later when you are ready, in a separate car behind you. We repeat steps as often and for as long as you need. Our goal is to help you drive comfortably where you need to go for work, errands or pleasure.
When Other Issues Add To Stress In Your Life . . .
Travel may be the one area of your life that you want to change. But it is sometimes the case that there may be other areas of stress in either your professional or personal life that you may 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 significant others, unhappiness about work or numerous other issues.
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.