I've been away from the blog and the site for a month now, but at last I'm back and I'm looking through the Survey, which I'll bring to a close next week then publish the results. One submission came from Imogen Morton, who asked if the site could carry some stuff on another Key Question for the Learning Approach: should airlines offer treatment for passengers with a fear of flying?
I don't have time to put up a proper page on this (but I may do so next year), but I can fit in a Blog article on it.
What we're talking about, is this:
As a student, you need to know a couple of facts about the fear of flying (aerophobia or aviophobia) and what can be done about it. You have to be able to explain the psychology behind these fears and behind the treatments for them. Finally, you must be able to offer a view on whether the airlines should help treat this.
Recent terror attacks on airlines (such as the 2015 downing of the Russian Metrojet leaving Egypt by Isis-linked terrorists) and air disasters (such as the 2014 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight for Beijing) have increased the fear of flying in the public.
Most airlines offer “fear of flying” courses. Several of them are introduced here:
And the idea is discussed in a bit more detail here:
For airlines, there’s a commercial reason for this. The courses aren’t free: you pay for them. Also, every person who overcomes a fear of flying is a potential new customer of the airline.
However, there’s also an ethical reason. In today’s global society, air travel is an important part of business, education and leisure. People who can’t use it due to irrational fears are held back from participating in 21st century life.
Fear of flying includes people with a phobia (aviophobia or aeophobia) who go into panic attacks at the prospect of boarding a plane, but also people who suffer anxiety at the thought of flying because they exaggerate the risks.
Treating the fear of flying therefore involves a mixture of psychotherapy and education. Education can be like this:
But maybe you prefer to be educated like this:
The two main therapies to treat fear of flying are SYSTEMATIC DESENSITISATION and COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY.
Both of these are based on the idea of an Initial Sensitising Event (ISE), some sort of distressing or traumatic moment that triggered the fear in the first place.
For example, flying on aeroplanes is a neutral stimulus for most people but some people might come to associate it with an unconditioned stimulus that produces fear (perhaps they watched news footage of a crash at a young age and got frightened). This is Classical Conditioning.
Alternatively, they might have been influenced by news stories and movies about aeroplane crashes and ended up with false beliefs about the danger of flying. They then cause themselves to have a stress response by imagining frightening outcomes. This is Cognitive Psychology.
Systematic Desensitisation is a therapy for phobias created by Joseph Wolpe, based on Classical Conditioning. It involves replicating the sights, sounds and sensations of flight in increasing stages. At the same time, relaxation techniques are used to counteract the anxiety. Virtual Reality technology has been used to help with this.
This Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is being used to treat a fear of the subway but it discusses fear of flying and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy at the end
Some clients remain aware (on a cognitive level) that they are not really flying, so this technique has disappointing results. Maltby et al. (2002) found VRET to be no more effective than exposing clients to sitting in a parked aeroplane.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was created by Aaron Beck, as an alternative to Freud's psychoanalysis. It tackles the client’s beliefs and how they act on them. A lot of phobias are examples of faulty beliefs (treating something as much more dangerous than it really is). During therapy, the client discusses their beliefs and reactions, identifies faulty beliefs and inappropriate reactions, and practises ways of reacting differently, which are then reinforced with praise or rewards.
This approach has been rather more successful because, as the name suggests, it tackles both faulty cognitions AND inappropriate behaviour. However, the two approaches can be combined together to get "the best of both worlds".
Prof. Paul Salkovskis is using a mixture of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and elements of Systematic Desensitisation (bringing the feather closer in stages)
There's evidence that some people are helped by this sort of therapy - especially when you combine elements of Systematic Desensitisation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. However, not everyone does, which is why therapists offering hypnosis are also popular.
You might argue that the airlines are exploiting people with fears by charging them for therapies that might not even work. Alternatively, maybe the airlines are helping people be free of a psychological problem that holds them back from advancing in their career or staying in touch with loved ones or just experiencing other countries and cultures.
The Psychology Wizard is Jonathan Rowe. I'm a teacher and writer, living in the Fens of Lincolnshire. It sure is flat here. I'm writing a Roman Horror Novel at the moment. Check out Tinderspark and The Thief Of Faces if you fancy a good read.