For over 20 million Americans, traveling would be a lot more enjoyable if you could walk to each new country. Unfortunately, the vast majority of traveling takes place on a plane, and the fear of flying prevents many from venturing out to the world around them.
Even those that gather the courage often find that their flights were stressful enough to genuinely prevent their enjoyment of their travel experience, indicating that this anxiety is more than just a temporary problem – it makes traveling legitimately difficult.
The VALK Foundation
An organization known as the VALK Foundation is looking for ways to fight that fear. This Dutch foundation (developed by the University of Leiden in collaboration with a host of air travel companies) has been researching new ways to help people cope with their anxieties. They’ve already developed a few methods that have shown some success helping others become less stressed during travel.
The iPhone App of Fear
The VALK iPhone app is one of their most interesting developments. This app is designed to provide tips for others for controlling their anxieties during every part of a flight, including:
- Before Departure
- Take Off and Flight
There is also tips feature, a statistics feature, a course to help people learn to control their fears, and a panic button. The panic button appears to be very interesting, because it explains some of the sounds and sensations that can occur during flight with tips to immediately decrease some of the stress.
The app can be used without Internet (on Airplane Mode) and contains both audio and visual strategies to decrease stress. Using an app may not be the most comforting strategy for decreasing anxiety, but as more information is added, the app should provide a valuable resource to help others cope.
Training for Flight Anxiety
VALK is also looking to offer a training program designed to help others overcome their flight anxiety symptoms. The training promises a 98% success rate, and uses technology to carefully determine every aspect of the fear experience. A virtual reality program takes clients through the flight process to figure out what causes them the most fear. They are then taken to the airport and ride a stationary aircraft.
Throughout this experience they’re expected to get used to their fears and experiences, and given access to psychotherapists to help them through the process. Once completed, they’ll then ride on a flight to Europe, all while being helped with their fear. They’ll then get follow ups both three months and six months later.
This type of program is still not available in the US or most other countries (especially if the fear of flying prevents you from traveling to the Netherlands to enroll) but the research behind it makes it a promising tool for the future. If the 98% success rate holds true for international communities, then presumably the program would play a key role in treating flight anxiety in the future.
Developments in Fighting Travel Fears
The VALK Foundation is one of the few foundations currently looking for ways to fight travel fears, but one would expect that as the airlines struggle, more companies are going to be looking for ways to fight travel fears in order to improve business and create an atmosphere of less fear of flying. Whether it’s an app or a training program, some method of reducing overall flight fears will go a long way to improving travel and turning more people into travel buffs.
Guest author Ryan Rivera had a severe fear of flying that kept him essentially homebound for years. He runs a website on all types of anxiety at www.calmclinic.com.