"Dogs used to terrify me. I donít suppose that concerns you greatly.

Phobias are common - ten million of us in Britain suffer with one, according to the NHS - so my cynophobia was nothing out of the ordinary. It didnít much concern me, either. I just avoided dogs.


The one occasion I came face to face with a Yorkshire terrier during a coastal walk in Ogmore, South Wales, I knew exactly what to do. The dog toddled closer. I looked left (vertical cliff face), then right (sheer drop) and, with nowhere to hide, jumped onto my friend Saraís back. She screamed. The terrier jumped up onto her front. I clung on. Sara yelled louder. The owners eventually prised the playful puppy away. No one hurt - except Saraís back and my dignity, perhaps.

Things changed a year ago. As a newspaper journalist, I was sent to knock on strangers' doors most days. On one such knock in January 2010, something happened that is still devastatingly embarrassing to admit. But I shall.

I was incredibly keen - my shoes were shining, my notebook poised - but, as soon as I rapped on that door and it creaked open, two excited Dalmatians jostled onto the path to greet me. What did I do? I dived into a nearby hydrangea bush to hide. Hydrangea stems poked into my sides. I was painfully aware of how absurd I looked, but I couldnít persuade myself to come out.

At home that night, I desperately Googled phrases like Ďdog phobia helpí. Somewhere in the results, I stumbled across The Phobia Clinic in Harley Street, the London road famed for its private medical surgeries. I booked an appointment with its senior consultant, Stephen Wichett. Only he wasnít an ordinary consultant. He was a hypnotist. Drastic as hypnosis sounds, Iíd already tried everything else: from 18 months of cognitive behavioural therapy to spending an afternoon with my great-auntís haughty champagne poodle. Nothing worked.

I arrived at The Phobia Clinic reception convinced that this too would fail. Reassuringly, Stephen looked more like a no-nonsense pub landlord than a dippy-hippy, hypnotist and described his 20 yearsí experience as he ushered me through a labyrinth of corridors to his little office. There was the man afraid of celery; another terrified of circus music; a growing number of thirty something women with an unusual phobia of vomiting. He had cured them all - but I still wasnít convinced.

We sat on armchairs and he asked a lot of questions like, ďWhat donít you like about dogs?Ē (Not being able to control them.) So far, so simple. But the next exercise threw me. Itís called Thought Field Therapy; an unnecessarily complicated name for a silly-sounding ritual of humming while tapping different parts of your body rhythmically. First your collarbone, then knuckles, then armpit. Itís a scientific process thatís supposed to reset the amygdala, or the two almond-shaped glands in the middle of the brain that Ďstoreí trauma and fear.

I started to feel like a broken computer being rebooted. Stephen asked me to assign my fear a number, from one to ten. I settled on eight. We repeated the process until - and I canít explain why - my fear plummeted to one. The final stage is hypnosis. There wasnít a gold watch on a chain being waved in front of my eyes, as I half expected. Instead I was told to close my eyes and, in a gentle voice, Stephen told me to relax each part of my body.

I slipped into a trance. My legs felt heavy and my head sleepy - the same feeling as the dozy period in between sleeping and waking. Stephen described different scenarios. In one, I was at the back of a cinema looking down at the auditorium. The cinema was empty apart from one person: me. Stephen told me to watch myself - and in particular, my reaction to whatever was on the screen. First, there was a happy film, then a film with dogs in it. Things went hazy then. Maybe I fell asleep. Stephen counted backwards and I woke up, groggy.

I didnít feel different. Stephen didnít tell me whether it had worked. Instead, there was a sandy mongrel on a lead (borrowed from The Mayhew Animal Home) waiting outside. I walked slowly towards it. I waited for the sticky palms and racing heart - but they didnít appear. I was wonderfully calm. "

                                                                  *********************************
"I even patted the dog. I put it down to elation. But elation canít last a year. Because, believe it or not, exactly one year later, I adopted my own dog: a bull mastiff rescue puppy named Kai. Every day, he grows. Soon, heíll reach 28in tall and weigh nine stone - bigger than an Alsatian. That doesnít worry me. What does worry me, strangely enough, is that I havenít a clue where my phobia is hiding.

Iím nervous that one day, that hot fear will swirl in my stomach again. I worry my hands will sweat and shake. Or worse, that Kai will have to return to Battersea Dogs Home - and whatever dam was holding back my phobia will crumble. Surely the hypnosis hasnít killed it for good? So far, itís been one year, one month and 30 days. Hereís hoping it lasts."
The Phobia Clinic
      A Confidential and Private Practice in Central London
Local Rate Number: 0844 585 6040 Harley Street Office: 0207 175 2480
     This page and its contents are the exclusive copyright of ThePhobiaClinic.com 2012. Reproduction in any form (without written consent) is forbidden

Approaches used: NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), Coaching and Counselling Skills, Hypnotherapy, TFT
(Thought Field Therapy), Psychotherapy, Coaching and Development, and Career Strategies.



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'Easy Living' Feature (Sept. 2011)    Removing Laura Powell's phobia of dogs, with a happy ending!

"There is absolutely no need for anyone
to suffer a phobia nowadays......"

Stephen Wichett SNLP, Senior Consultant and Founder of The Phobia Clinic
Laura Powell
Laura with Kai
Successful completion!
Laura - before the treatment