One of the most common specific phobias is the fear of flying. This is a phobia or fear that can be overcome through speaking with a counsellor, psychologist or therapist. Find out more below about the fear of flying and how counselling or therapy can help overcome it.

Why do we develop phobias?

For many of us, phobias seem to appear out of nowhere. The development of phobias is not clearly understood, particularly if the phobia is not attached to any specific negative experience. Fear of flying is a good example of a phobia that can seem to develop out of nowhere, although usually people with this fear are able to describe what they are afraid of when it comes to flying.

In some cases, phobias may develop as a result of internalising negative messages transmitted by parents or caregivers of a child during childhood. For example, if a parent would constantly comment about how dangerous it was to fly, then that child might grow up to be a person who does not willingly get on a plane for a business trip. That child might grow up to repeat the fears that their parent had, mirroring their mother or father’s own fear of flying.

In other cases, fear of flying might develop from a specific experience. For instance, if a horrific plane crash was on the television and was repeatedly shown so that it traumatized a person, then they might develop a fear of flying. This occurred in the United States when the 9/11 plane crashes were shown repeatedly on the television for weeks following the attacks. The televising of these occurrences saw a drastic reduction in the number of people choosing to fly.

Counselling & treatment for phobias

Treatment for phobias can occur in several different ways. One of the most common is what is called “exposure therapy.” In this type of therapy, clients are given the opportunity to slowly become acclimatised to the idea of flying and what it might be like to take a plane trip. Clients are asked to look at photos of planes and the interior of a plane. They might even take a field trip in which they are able to sit in a plane simulator, both in the passenger section and in the pilots’ cabin. As the client becomes more familiar with the feeling of being in a plane, the phobia is expected to decrease in strength.

Another approach to treating fear of flying is to teach the client about relaxation. Relaxation techniques may include repeating mantras such as “I am safe and calm,” or “I am surrounded by serenity.” A counsellor, therapist or psychologist may teach a client how to use guided imagery and mentally go to a safe place in their mind where they feel secure and relaxed.

Finally, one extreme but potentially rewarding form of exposure therapy recommended by counsellors, therapists or psychologists is to take flying lessons whilst simultaneously going to therapy. For some clients, learning about how the plane works and taking control of the plane can lead to becoming more relaxed about flying. In many cases, fear and phobias are about feeling that our environment, including our personal safety, is out of our control. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Seeking help for fear of flying

If you or someone you know is afraid of flying, and you wish to overcome this specific phobia, you or they may benefit from seeking help from a qualified professional therapist, counsellor or psychologist. If you would like more information or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney.

Go Deeper

Our Services

We offer a variety of services dealing with wellbeing and mental health. Select from one of the options below for further details.