A happy client recently asked me what kind of therapy I had used to help him successfully overcome his fear of flying. It was a great question because it forced me to reflect on the question until I came up with an answer myself.
I have played out a little drama in my own thinking on this one many times. I tell myself that there should be a very short and pithy answer to this question; one that is an easily recognised term, talked about by learned people, included in the title of many books. But I don’t have that answer.
I have this answer. It isn’t really therapy at all although the experience must be therapeutic because the outcome of flying without anxiety certainly is. It is a transformative experience because nothing less will do the job. It’s not like you can keep getting on a plane and have a little bit less anxiety each time and eventually get a result – the evidence shows the opposite is true. The more you force yourself to cope with anxiety in the situation that triggers it, the more you wear that anxious groove into your brain. It has something to do with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) because afterwards your thinking and behaving will be altered beneficially but it’s not nudging slowly towards the solution, it has to be swift and complete or it isn’t transformation. Mindfulness deserves a mention because I really want you to have a changed mind, the old mind set wasn’t working to your satisfaction. It has a great deal to do with the revelations coming from neuroscience that offer us facts about how the brain works rather than mere speculations based on observing behaviour.
The essential thing is that you do the really important work of changing your mind. I haven’t yet met a client who lacked the desire for a different experience, that’s why they become clients. But there is something that makes it hard to escape old habits of thought and behaviour no matter how painful they have been.
When you are part of the system that habit keeps in place, it’s hard to see the role you play in keeping it going. That’s why behavioural change can be difficult to achieve, because there is so much inbuilt resistance. It’s not wilful it’s just human.
What I do is the proper job of a coach. By using a series of conversations and questions appropriate to each situation, I enable clients to see the part they play in creating the unwelcome experiences or outcomes they have. Self-awareness is the knowledge that empowers the human being. As your co-driver, I do the navigating while you do the actual driving down new roads as it were and with my greater awareness that there are alternative routes, you get to the places you didn’t even know existed when you were blinded by familiarity.
Psychological coaching delivered in the context of a commitment to achieving transformed outcomes shines a light on the issue and illuminates new routes to new destinations. That is what facilitates behavioural change and a transformed experience for the client. That’s why I call it Creative Coaching. It is the product of my learning and experience over twenty-five years to make your world a better place. And by the way, I’m working on the book.