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Nov 28, 2011

Living with spiders


Living with spiders – do phobia courses really work?

It is estimated that in some Western societies up to 52 % of women and 18% of men have some degree of spiderphobia. Bristol Zoo has been running a ‘Living with spiders’ course for over ten years.

In 2010 we ran four courses for a total of 37 participants. The three hour course mixes relaxation, hypnotherapy, discussion, a talk about spiders and an optional meeting with spiders to help sufferers overcome their fear of spiders.

The effectiveness of the sessions was investigated thoroughly with three questionnaires that participants filled in before the course, two weeks after the course and two months after the course.

64% of participants admitted that their phobia of spiders dramatically affected their daily lives, with many of them avoiding places and situations, or suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. The results showed that the course has a significant, positive long term effect on participants’ behaviour and emotions towards spiders. Levels of anxiousness after seeing a spider fell by 54% after the course with these improvements remaining even after two months. The language used by participants to describe spiders also changed markedly with a move away from pre-course ‘fear’ and ‘panic’ towards post-course ‘interest’ and ‘calmness’.

Participants were also given the tools – breathing and relaxation exercises – to help them take control in future spider encounters, which they reported as being very helpful to allow them stay calm and in control. 75% of participants gave the course a mark of 8 out of 10 for being helpful to them in managing their phobia of spiders. 


Bristol Zoo Gardens

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2011 for Best education project: public and general visitor



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