Dr. Kevin Meyer Presents at LINC Luncheon

March 28, 2012

Dr. Kevin Meyer, assistant professor of psychology at the University Mount Union, presented Face Your Fears at the final LINC luncheon of the academic year on Tuesday.

During his presentation, Meyer discussed his annual psychology class project in which students research phobias at Cedar Point in Sandusky. A phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear and anxiety that can be psychologically and physically crippling. The target of a phobia can be virtually anything, including heights, airplanes, snakes or roller coasters.

This year, 15 students in Meyer’s class were identified as having a roller coaster phobia and volunteered to participate in the project to overcome their fears. Meyer said he came up with the idea several years ago while at Cedar Point with his wife. As they watched people clap after getting off a roller coaster, Meyer’s wife questioned whether roller coasters would make a good antidepressant for people.

“It seems like it could make someone feel better,” Meyer said.

The roller coaster idea continued circulating until Meyer and his wife came up with the idea to study phobias, the most common anxiety disorder. Meyer said phobias are very common and very treatable. Meyer and his students came up with the roller coaster project and documented their day at Cedar Point on video, which Meyer showed during his presentation.

While at Cedar Point, Meyer gave play by plays as he rode roller coasters with students. The group started with smaller rides and worked their way up to the faster, taller roller coasters. Some students were afraid of wooden roller coasters, some were afraid of heights and some had other fears of the rides.

“All 15 students overcame their phobias,” Meyer said. “I am consistently amazed at how brave they are to put their necks out there and do this.”

To prepare for the annual trip to Cedar Point, Meyer and his students participate in psychoeducation — learning about why they have phobias. Students are educated on anxiety disorders during class sessions.

“They learn that what they perceive to be out of control is something they can control,” Meyer said.

Additionally, students are encouraged to participate in purposeful relaxation techniques such as yoga for 15-20 minutes a day. Students also learn about cognitive restructuring — changing the way they think. They are asked to journal their feelings about their phobias of roller coasters.

“The only way to battle irrational thoughts is to tell yourself something else,” Meyer said.

The last step in battling an anxiety disorder, according to Meyer, is to have exposure to the object or activity that is causing a phobia — in his students’ case, traveling to Cedar Point and actually riding roller coasters.

“The feeling of pride you see coming off these students is amazing,” Meyer said. “They do something personally that they set out to do.”

In addition to working at Mount Union, Meyer works as a licensed marriage and family therapist in Canton. Previously, he served as an adjunct faculty member at Capital University and The Ohio State University.

Meyer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, a Master of Science degree in human development and family science: early childhood development and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in human development and family science: marriage and family therapy.

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