Wearing head-mounted displays, clients at UCF’s Anxiety Disorders Clinic can experience airline flights, giving a speech in front of a large crowd or other activities that are difficult to set up as real scenarios. The soothing voice of a psychologist seated at an adjacent computer helps clients describe their fears and gradually overcome them.
“If people are afraid of flying, we have the capability to walk them through a terminal, get on a plane and make the plane take off,” said Deborah Beidel, the UCF professor who directs the clinic staffed by Clinical Psychology faculty and doctoral students.
Beidel said anxiety disorders usually are best treated by exposing clients to their fears. In some cases, it can be easy to create a realistic scenario to help someone overcome anxiety. Virtual reality makes it much easier to expose people to other anxieties, such as flying.
The clinic is located in the Psychology Building on UCF’s main campus. The clinic focuses on behavioral approaches to therapy and does not prescribe medication.
Treatment for adults with social phobia is free through the National Institute of Mental Health program. Treatment for children with severe shyness is also available without a fee. Fees for clients with other anxiety disorders are based on their ability to pay.
Determining when fear should be considered an anxiety disorder isn’t always easy. Beidel said anxiety disorders significantly impair performance on the job or in the classroom or the ability to hold meaningful social relationships.
For more information about the clinic, call (407) 823-3910.