Separating Science From Pseudoscience: Real Evidence-Based Phobia Treatments

If you or someone you know struggles with a phobia, it can be difficult to know where to turn for treatment. There are so many options available, from therapy and counselling to self-help guides and alternative medicines to real evidence-based phobia treatments, and every website out there is trying to tell you that their particular approach is the most successful.

The guidance you’ll find on The Phobia Solution is designed to recreate face-to-face therapy with a professional, qualified therapist in an easy to use guide. Our material is based on years of intensive research and testing and has already proven highly successful, so obviously, we think you should go with us! But to help you consider the different options out there, here’s a brief explanation of some of the major treatment types and a review of their scientific credibility.

Exposure Therapy

The most widely used treatment approach for phobias in the field of evidence-based clinical psychology is called exposure therapy. This works on the simple principle that the best way to treat phobias is to expose yourself to the source of your fear. This teaches you that the danger is not as great as you imagined and that, in reality, there is nothing to fear.

Exposure can take many forms, depending on the phobia in question. It can involve being directly confronted with the object of your fear, or indirectly experiencing it by watching videos or mentally imagining situation through a process called visualization. A therapist can also “model” exposure for you by interacting with your feared situation so as to teach you that it is safe.

Exposure is highly successful in treating phobias in almost all cases, and there is a huge body of research to support its effectiveness. The principles behind it are relatively straightforward. So, once the ideas have been explained to you by a qualified psychologist, there is no reason you cannot undertake exposure therapy yourself.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Another popular evidence-based therapy, CBT involves training you to spot your thought processes, identify when you are making incorrect assumptions and replace them with more accurate beliefs. Many people with phobias have exaggerated or unrealistic thoughts relating to their fears, and CBT has been proven highly successful in treating all forms of anxiety by bringing your thoughts more into line with reality. Many therapists will employ elements of CBT alongside exposure training.


Many people might consider hypnosis or hypnotherapy to belong to the realms of pseudoscience or TV physics rather than actual scientific treatment, but this is not always the case. When done properly, hypnotherapy lets you tap into the subconscious mind and become more receptive to suggestions and ideas. Evidence suggests this can be effective in treating a range of problems, particularly addictions.

When it comes to treating phobias, hypnotherapy is something of a mixed bag. Research suggests it can have some impact on reducing fear, but there is definitely less support for hypnotherapy than for other forms of treatment. Hypnotherapy is also very much dependent on the specific practitioner as some will operate using genuine psychological methods and some will not. If hypnotherapy is something you want to explore, you should be very careful to find a practitioner who is qualified and uses sound psychological methods.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

NLP is a theory of psychological treatment which was developed in the 1970s and 80s. The theory states that a person’s experiences can be understood in terms of their five basic senses, and that by “modelling” experiences and reproducing certain patterns of sensory experience, you can train yourself to learn new behaviours and thought processes.

NLP gained popularity in the 1980s and is still widely practiced today, with many corporate training, public speaking and self-help courses being based on its principles. Despite its popularity, research has consistently shown that NLP has no scientific validity and the claims made by its practitioners do not hold up to scrutiny. To put it bluntly, scientific analysis shows that NLP simply does not work. You should, therefore, be extremely wary of any treatment or practice which claims to be based on NLP principles, no matter how many bold claims and flashy promises they make.


Many doctors will prescribe anxiety medication for people suffering from phobias. Alternative and herbal remedies are also often used to reduce stress and anxiety levels, with varying degrees of success.

There is no magic pill that can cure a phobia. Medication can help you feel less anxious when confronted with your feared situation but it won’t treat the underlying problem. So while medication can be useful in bringing your fears down to manageable levels, allowing you to engage with therapy more effectively, on its own medication should not be considered a long-term solution.

Always check The Source

There are hundreds of places you can turn to for help with your phobia. The thing to remember is that anyone can make a professional looking website and claim they can help you. Whenever you’re considering getting help, you should always be certain that the person is qualified to be giving you advice or treatment. Look for qualifications from respected establishments and references to genuine evidence-based practice. Be sure you trust the source to avoid wasting your time and money, or worse.

Need to know if you have a phobia? Take the phobia assessment today!

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