Question: When I was a little kid I was bitten by my neighbor’s dog and ended up in the emergency room because of it. Ever since then I’ve been terrified of dogs, even little chihuahuas! Even though I’m supposed to be a ‘manly’ man, every time I see a dog I feel like a little kid again. My girlfriend and I love each other, but I don’t love her best friend…her childhood dog. We’ve been planning to move in together and I know that if I’m going to make it work, I’ll have to get her dog to love me too. How can I start working through my fear?
Answer: Experiencing trauma in your childhood can stay with you for life, but it is never too late to start working on ways to cope. The trauma you experience can be a major life hindrance, so it’s important to seek out the right therapist to support you while you work through that trauma. Dr. Beyer, a therapist at Kentlands Psychotherapy says, “it’s admirable that you want to change, but it’s important to take things slow and find a therapist with whom you’re comfortable. Your therapist will probably ask you to recount your first negative experience with a dog and then recommend supervised exposure therapy.” Exposure therapy doesn’t have to be scary, so long as it is done in a safe environment. Remember that this process can be long, but your dedication will definitely heed results.