Clinic Program Overview
Our clinic program has two key components: instructor expertise, and Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
The Fear of Flying Clinic draws upon the expertise of several airline industry professionals:
Engineers & Maintenance Professionals
Air Traffic Controllers
This team is on-hand to share key information on all aspects of flying—including the basic principles of aerodynamics (why you hear that "bump" during take-off!), industry-wide safety procedures, and an overview of the highly specialized training protocols all airline professionals undertake. In Clinic coursework, you're able to talk one-on-one with our experts, get your questions answered, and find new assurance in the facts.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Integral to the Clinic's success is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy component of the course. A licensed CBT therapist works closely with our clients to teach them techniques that tackle anxiety at its roots, then help to arm our clients with the confidence to employ these techniques during their toughest moment in the air. Too often, fearful fliers suffer in silence—not reaching out for help until the fear begins to encroach on their lives undeniably. Your fear may center on the structural safety of the airplane itself, the training of the professionals, or the imagined terror of being "trapped" inside an aircraft—all are extremely common "catastrophized" scenarios, all are legitimate experiences of fear, and all are extremely treatable. Our clients' incredible progress in the Clinic has shown us—time and again—that when you are committed to moving past your fear, the goal is absolutely within reach.
In the course of our 2-weekend clinic, we'll take you behind-the-scenes of commercial aviation to:
Tour SFO airport
Tour an aircraft maintenance hangar
Sit in the cockpit of a commercial jet
Visit SFO's airport control tower
This unparalleled access is unique to the Fear of Flying Clinic, and essential for demystifying a fear-based approach to flying. We discuss weather-related preemptive air-traffic control with the pilots and engineers themselves, learn how weather cautions may be unnecessarily affecting you as a fearful flyer—and parse apart what's reality versus actual threat.
We identify the take-off and landing noises that may be "triggers" for you, but pose zero risk—the mysterious squeaks and bumps so commonly misinterpreted by fearful fliers as evidence of danger. During the maintenance tour (the tour place on a stationary commercial airliner, parked in an SFO hangar) we'll demonstrate the function of various airplane parts and the sounds they generate. Dependably and powerfully, this one-of-kind exposure work helps our clients progress leaps and bounds past the imagined scenarios that, thus far, have lorded over their most anxious moments in the sky. Those mysterious "thumps" and "whistles" are no longer cause for alarm—in fact, they become reassuring checks in the flight's progress. When you understand the technical step-by-step of what a flight entails, it's all suddenly much less scary. Wild speculation is replaced by reassuring fact—and this is the core of our "relearning" work. Empowering you with information.
The "Graduation Flight"
For many students, the FOFC Graduation Flight is nothing less than transformational.
Held on the final Sunday of the clinic, the Graduation Flight is the culmination of everything our clients have learned in the course of their 2-week Clinic, and it gives all participants the chance to put everything into active practice. We join a regularly scheduled commercial flight, most often to Seattle or another short "day route," flying there and back to SFO the same day.
At this point in the Clinic, the flight is a uniquely liberating experience—categorically different from the flights clients may have taken in their real life because this time they're armed with a tremendous amount of new safety information, coupled with coping skills for effective anxiety management. And, start to finish, they're bolstered by the essential support of staff and occasionally joined by graduates of past FOFC clinics as well.
It's not unusual for clients to have some jitters on the day of the flight—that same dread they've felt before might rear its head. But this time? They're ready. Armed with a fresh perspective and a commitment to put their new skills to the test. The Graduation Flight cements the experience of moving beyond the grip of fear, and it's a tremendous accomplishment—a right of passage that bonds Clinic attendees (many stay connected even after the clinic is over), and a liberating next chapter. Occasionally, a Clinic enrollee will decide not to fly. In any outcome, we emphasize that the attempt is half the battle—and the Graduation Flight is first and foremost an opportunity. We talk clients through every step of the experience, and help them see it as part of a larger process in conquering their fear. They can try again later. It's never too late to start fresh.
FOFC clients are provided with supplementary reading materials and an audio recording as part of their coursework. The tape reviews the techniques taught by our counselor and takes you through a guided "fantasy flight" so you learn to identify the "normal" sounds an airplane makes through each step of the flight. The binder and the tape are yours to keep—while we expect that you will use them as "homework" while the Clinic is in session, we hope that you'll continue to refer to them when you prepare for future flights. To stay empowered and clear-eyed as approach your future travel, post-FOFC
Workshop Program Overview
The Workshop is the same activity as the 1st day of The Clinic. On this one day Workshop, you meet the other attendees and staff leadership. You share and hear from other people about their concerns about flying. You are able to interact with our seasoned therapist about your concerns as well as learn about some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques. Additionally, you will hear a lecture from a commercial pilot and you're able to dialog with him or her about your questions and concerns. You will then be able to utilize these therapeutic strategies with your new learning about flight and the daily operations of air travel.
Follow-Up & Long-Term Support
We provide extensive follow-up and remain available for support—always. Even after completion of the Clinic, you will be given the names and telephone numbers of our FOFC presenters so that you may continue receiving professional answers to any questions that may come up for you down the line. In fact, we ask that you keep in touch with us! And past clients are always welcome to join us on our future Graduation Flights—either as part of our support stuff, or just to get a "refresher."
No Miracle Cure
The Fear of Flying Clinic does not claim to offer miracle cures, but rather to give you the tools to conquer your own fears. Our approach is based in self-empowerment.