Mobile therapy can help fear of flying
The VALK Foundation aims to help those who suffer from fear of flying. It is in the process of launching a mobile application (‘Vlieg App’) to counter flying phobia. 'Vlieg App' can support people who suffer light to moderate phobia when confronted with air travel. It has been developed as part of the psychotherapeutic research programme at Leiden University.
About three million inhabitants of the Netherlands, who regard flying as an unnatural pursuit for humans, experience varying degrees of fear when flying. For these unfortunate passengers, Leiden’s ‘Vlieg App’ serves as a form of mobile therapy. It is based on a scientifically-based method of treatment that Leiden University’s VALK Foundation uses during its therapeutic training.
‘Vlieg App’ comprises a ‘mini-course’ on air travel. It offers factual data about flying and explains the effects of fear on the human frame. It is also accompanied by relaxation exercises enhanced by both text and sound. These exercises enable the phobic sufferer to relax. Should a panic attack nonetheless arise, there is a ‘panic button’: an audio-file enables the phobia therapist to speak directly to the user, as a result of which the level of fear immediately decreases.
A simple menu enables users to select a particular stage of the flight, such as anticipation preceding the flight, the take-off process, the flight itself, in-flight turbulence, and the landing process.
As Dr Lucas van Gerwen, clinical psychologist and Director of the VALK Foundation, explains: ‘There are many grades of flying phobia. A course of behaviour therapy is not always necessary: some sufferers find ‘Vlieg App’ sufficient. What’s more, there are plenty of resources for patients who have undergone flying phobia treatment in the past. Our aim is to reassure passengers with flying phobia that there is always someone travelling with them who understands their fears and knows exactly what they are going through.’
Until now the application has only been available to users of iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. A version of the application will probably soon be available that is Blackberry- and Apple-compliant. The ‘Vlieg App’ costs €4.99. From Saturday 18 June it can be downloaded from the Appstore, under the ‘travel and health’ category. For more information, call the VALK Foundation on (+31) (0)71-527-3733.
The VALK Foundation operates together with KLM, Leiden University, Transavia.com, Arkefly, Martinair, and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The Foundation has so far successfully treated the flying phobias of more than 9,000 sufferers.
(17 June 2011)