Exploring How NLP Therapy for Phobias Can Help You

NLP therapy can help you think and act the way you want to.NLP, or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is a powerful tool that can aid you in the treatment of phobias. This approach focuses on the connection between our thoughts, language, and behaviours or our reactions to phobia triggers in this case. It has been used as a phobia therapy for many decades and has a reputation for being a quick and effective treatment. It aims to reframe (reprogramme) our thought patterns in order to create new behaviours and strategies for managing the problem. Your therapist will get to know the way you descried your world and use similar language so you understand the treatment better. They will ask many questions of you to get a better understand why you think there is a danger, when there is not.

How NLP Phobia Treatment Works

White fluffly mouse smiling with cheese nearby no danger hereNLP Therapy for phobia works on the principle that our thoughts greatly influence our behaviours and emotions. So, how we think about a mouse when we see it effects how we react. Someone with an irrational fear of mice (musophobia) might have their fight, flight, fright reaction triggered by seeing one. They might panic or be struck by anxiety at this cute little furry beasty which on the whole is not a life-threatening danger. It’s a mouse. Yet, how they perceive it, how they think about it has made them react irrationally, disproportionately to the actual danger they are in, which is little or none. What NLP can do here is change the way you think about your trigger (the mouse as a fluffy, harmless animal who likes cheese) and so change the way you react to them (calmly in proportion to the lack of danger).

Reframing the Thoughts and Behaviours Quickly

Picture of basketball swishing thorugh the hoop and netting.One of the key techniques used in NLP is called reframing. This involves consciously changing the meaning or perspective of a particular situation or thought. A good NLP technique to do this is SWISH which can work amazingly fast in a single session. What you do is take a mental picture of a mouse (what you are phobic about) and how you react at the moment. Then you change that in your mind to be a bit blurry and black and white. Next you take a mental picture in full blazing colour of how you would like to react to the mouse. Your therapist take you to the black and white and SWISH! It’s the colour photo in your mind. You repeat this SWISHing a few times and by the end of it you probably won’t be able to see the black and white one it will only be the colour picture of the new behaviour you want to have.  When applied to phobias, reframing using visual images like this can help individuals view their fears from a different angle and adopt a more positive and empowering mindset.  

Using the Language You Use to Describe Your World

Also, NLP looks at the language you use to describe your personal world and puts this to good use during treatment. For example if you ask a few friends to describe what their living room is like, they may describe it in terms of visual images, what you can hear, what you can touch or how they feel when they are there or what it smells like. People tend toward describing things using one dominant sense.

So, Sam might say “My living room is alive with plants that make me feel happy.” But, Pauline might say “Yes, there are green leaves and red and white flowers all over”. So, during therapy your qualified therapist would describe things in terms you can make better sense of. More feelings would be included in Sam’s therapy and more visuals and colour in Pauline’s. It is all about understanding the language you use and using the same sort of language, so you understand what is being said during therapy better.

Understanding Why This Thing Triggers Your Phobia

Business person happily speaking in public without fear and enjoying itBy identifying and understanding the patterns and triggers that contribute to our phobias, NLP can help us develop new ways of thinking and responding to our fears. For example, let’s say someone has a fear of public speaking (glossophobia) which is very common. Finding out how this irrational fear first came about is a good start. Through NLP, you can learn to reframe your thoughts about speaking in public as an opportunity for personal growth and self-expression rather than a source of great anxiety. By reframing your perception, you can shift to a more positive mindset and approach the situation with much more confidence and ease. Staying calm, calm, calm all the way through and enjoying it instead of running away!


Forman D PhD et al (2008) Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the Treatment of Phobias [online] available from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J294v06n01_13 Last access 15/11/2023

Kwon W (2010) A review on the NLP techniques for reducing anxiety in dental phobic patients from The Journal of the Korean dental association (대한치과의사협회지) [online] available from https://koreascience.kr/article/JAKO201056539819666.page Last access 12/11/2023

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