How to Overcome a Fear of Snakes Using the Humanistic Approach

Written by vanessa newman
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How to Overcome a Fear of Snakes Using the Humanistic Approach
The humanistic approach to fear is client-centred. (Snake image by Lucid_Exposure from

Most people fear snakes to some extent. It is a survival instinct to be afraid of an animal that might harm you. Being cautious around snakes is not the problem, but letting your fear control your everyday actions or choices is a problem. Avoiding a fear often exaggerates its effect and makes it debilitating. In humanistic psychology, there is no one cookie-cutter approach to eliminating fears. The humanistic approach focuses on the person involved more than on the methods used.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Begin therapy with a client-centred approach. Entering into therapy with a trained humanistic therapist or counsellor is one way to deal with a fear of snakes. Therapists trained in humanistic psychology, such as transactional analysis, encourage you to talk, and they listen as you describe your fear and pay attention without judgment. They would try to lead you to discover what coping mechanisms or resources you have to deal with the fear. This process would be unique for each person as your experiences, skills and choices would determine the right approach for eliminating the fear.

  2. 2

    Use the "empty chair" technique. This technique attempts to separate the person from the fear and then has her interact with it. Imagine that your fear is sitting in the empty chair and then have a conversation with it. You become both sides of the dialogue. For a fear of snakes, you might ask your fear: When did you first appear in my life? Then you would also need to provide the answer such as, when you were 5 years old and saw a snake in the back yard. The conversation does not always have to be question and answer format. The fear itself may share information with you such as, "I bother you more when you are stressed."

  3. 3

    Use desensitisation. To get rid of a fear of snakes with this approach, you systematically expose the affected person to his fear in manageable doses. For example, you might show him an abstract or cartoon-like photo of a snake and discuss her reactions to it. Next, expose her to a more realistic snake picture and build her tolerance to this situation. Then expose her to a live snake. Perhaps the final step would be to have the person hold a live snake. Through limited exposure to manageable amounts of fear, the person can conquer the phobia ultimately.

Tips and warnings

  • Humanistic psychologists believe that to remove a fear you must understand all the reasons and motivations for its existence. This is most likely not a quick fix.

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