An uncontrollable, long-lasting and irrational fear of an object, activity or specific situation characterises a phobia. It is a type of anxiety disorder. There are various types of phobias, such as agoraphobia, claustrophobia, etc. A phobia is very distressing and can have a significant negative impact on a person’s life and functioning. However, various therapeutic approaches are effective in treating phobias, These approaches can not only help people overcome phobias but also lead fulfilling lives.

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most popular and evidence-based approach to treating phobias. CBT is based on the assumption that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interconnected. Thus, changing our thoughts or behaviours can change our feelings as well. CBT focuses on helping people change unhelpful or negative thought patterns by replacing them with more positive ones. 

CBT helps in the treatment of phobias by:

  • Helping people identify negative thoughts or behavioural patterns that might be contributing to phobias. 
  • Empowers people with skills and strategies to challenge their negative thoughts around a feared object or situation and replace them with more helpful thoughts. This change in thinking may contribute to reduced fear and behavioural changes as well

Research suggests that CBT can be effective in the treatment of various phobias, such as social phobia, fear of dogs, etc. Not only that, recent research published in 2023 found that even one 3-hour session of CBT helped treat phobia symptoms in children. Thus, there is ample evidence to suggest that CBT is effective in treating phobias.

  • Exposure Therapy (ET)

Exposure therapy is a specific form of CBT that is particularly effective in the treatment of phobias. As the name suggests, exposure therapy involves gradually exposing people to the feared object or situation, to help them reduce their fear over time. The exposure usually starts with less intense situations and progresses to more challenging situations as people start getting comfortable. For ex- someone with a fear of dogs might be initially asked to imagine a dog or look at a dog’s picture before moving on to more challenging situations, such as standing beside a dog. 

People are also taught a few relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, grounding, and visualization so that they can be calm while facing their fears. Studies show that almost 80-90& of people with specific phobias respond well to exposure therapy. Usually, exposure therapy is used alongside CBT for the best results.

  • Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT)

Virtual Reality Therapy is a form of exposure therapy where a replica of a feared situation is created using computer simulation technology. For ex- a therapist might create a simulated driving situation and help clients build confidence and fear-management skills, to overcome the fear of driving. 

VR Therapy is particularly helpful in situations where it is difficult to recreate the feared object or situation in a therapy room. For ex- fear of driving, flying snakes, etc. 

A systematic review published in 2022, analyzing 18 articles, revealed that this approach significantly enhanced nearly all categories of specific phobias, including but not limited to animal phobias and blood or injection phobias.

  • Other Treatments For Phobia

There are various other approaches to treating phobias, such as:

  • Hypnotherapy focuses on tapping into one’s unconscious mind to understand the root causes of phobia and then making changes in the present.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR)– focuses on helping people deal with any traumatic memories that might be associated with phobia
  • Medications such as SSRI’s or antidepressants can help regulate neurotransmitters associated with fear. However, medications are used only if there are severe disturbances in functioning.


In summary, several effective therapies exist for treating phobias, ranging from traditional CBT and exposure therapy to innovative approaches like VR therapy. The choice of therapy depends on a person’s individual preferences, the specific phobia, and the therapist’s expertise. However, seeking professional help is crucial to diagnosing and overcoming phobias effectively. 


  1. Fischer, K. (2023, April 13). CBT for phobias: One-session treatment is effective. NIHR Evidence.
  2. Priyamvada, R., Kumari, S., Prakash, J., & Chaudhury, S. (2009). Cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of social phobia. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 18(1), 60–63.
  3. Specific Phobia Treatment. (2019, March 25). Psych Central.
  4. Treatment Options for Phobias. (n.d.). Verywell Mind. Retrieved April 1, 2024, from
  5. VR therapy for phobias, depression, PTSD, and more. (2023, October 13).
Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin