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Dear Candy Q & A: Working with Phobias

Q: Any tips on working with phobias?

A: Working with phobias is very similar to working with OCD. With OCD we are interrupting compulsive behaviour, whereas with phobias we are interrupting avoidance behaviour. In both cases, there are thoughts (or obsessions) that precede the behaviour. I recommend reviewing my previous post on working with OCD, and applying the same tools to working with phobias.

In a nutshell, we want to change the pattern of association our brain has with the things that result in fear, and incrementally train our way out of avoidance behaviours. Incremental training can begin in the imagination (imagine exposing yourself to the thing that causes fear), and then work your way up to small & brief exposures. All exposures, whether imagined or in real life must be immediately combined with rounds of practice or strong elevation of your emotional state and active redirection of your brain's attention, in order to change the brain's pattern of association.

It is also helpful to remind yourself and repeatedly reinforce the idea that your brain is sending you false messages. You don't have to believe everything you think and you are not your thoughts. Your brain sends you thoughts but that is not the essence of who you are. And not everything we think is worth believing or buying into, because we know that as we change our brains our thoughts change too, and this results in different experiences and ideas about ourselves and the world. Creating some separation between yourself and your thoughts enables you to have more capacity to actively redirect your brain and makes the rewiring process easier. It also gives you a sense of empowerment when you start to successfully challenge the false messages your brain is sending you, and as a result see a different outcome.

Until next time!

If you have a question, please email me at


Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at

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