Students Take Facing Fear to New Heights

October 17, 2014

ALLIANCE – Students in Dr. Kevin Meyer’s Abnormal Psychology course at the University of Mount Union will take their study of phobias to whole new heights and ride them back down with screams of joyous thrills replacing frightening frills.

On Sunday, October 19, Meyer’s students will embark on a trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio to face-off in this year’s Face Your Fear project. Some in Meyer’s class have professed their fear of roller coasters and thrill rides. They will now have the opportunity to challenge the amusement park’s roller coasters in a fright-or-flight scenario, including the popular 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster, one of the only two strata coasters in existence.

The experiment of surrounding people with their phobia is known as exposure therapy. It is a proven, effective method for overcoming phobias. It is a specific type of cognitive behavioral Therapy through which an individual is gradually exposed to the target of their fear. Cedar Point’s vast coaster collection is ideal for this type of approach, as it includes mild, moderate, and extremely thrilling coasters of nearly every type.

This is the fifth annual year since the Face Your Fear program was started for students to apply different types of therapeutic techniques learned in the classroom to actual phobic situations. Since its debut year, no student has failed to conquer his or her fear in the semester-long project; some have even progressed further into fanatics of their defeated fear.

Roller coaster phobia falls into a category of anxiety disorders known as specific phobias, a very commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder; a specific phobia can be focused on nearly any object and/or situation in the environment.

“I'm extremely grateful and proud of the students who are willing to undertake this endeavor,” said Meyer. “They can use what they learn in this class to help keep anxiety and fear in their control. In fact, more than one alum of the project has let me know it has helped prepare for grad school interviews, job interviews, and one marriage proposal!”

“It's astounding how prevalent and exhausting dealing with anxiety can be. That's what the heart of this project is,” Meyer continued. “Anxiety disorders are very common, and the course, Abnormal Psychology, is all about the causes, features and treatment of mental disorders...so what better way to bring this to life than to actually diagnose, discuss and treat these right in class?”

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