I cured my crippling 15-year snake phobia in an hour - and it changed my life

Anxiety, mental health
Anxiety, mental health

I've had a crippling fear of snakes since I was a teenager. Thinking about them makes my heart race, looking at photographs has induced panic attacks, and on the occasion I've seen one in the flesh, I've been known to vomit.

You might think the chances of seeing a free-roaming reptile in London are slim, but you'd be surprised how many times I've been subject to surprise sightings. In the seven years I've lived in this city, I've seen a commuter on the tube with a snake around his neck, a 15 ft Albino Burmese on its 'walk' in my local park and curious characters carrying multiple snakes through Greenwich Market.

With each unexpected encounter with a reptile - real or digital - my anxiety only seemed to get worse. I'd wake up each day wondering what my escape route would be if a snake-clad person boarded the bus, or how I'd escape the toilet cubicle if one travelled up the pipes while I was on it.

At the peak of my phobia, I would've considered death an easier route than confronting a snake. It's been a dark and difficult fear to live with, and very few people understand what it's really like.

A fear of snakes is not uncommon. Half the population feel "anxiety" towards reptiles, with research suggesting 52% have Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) making it the third most common phobia in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, this statistic never made me feel comforted about my embarrassing secret, so when Christopher Paul Jones approached me with the offer of 'curing' my phobia, I decided it was time to change.


Tackling my phobia head on at Christopher Paul Jones' clinic

I’ll admit I was somewhat sceptical of Christopher’s capabilities before we met. "He’s never had to treat someone as bad as me," I thought to myself, despite watching numerous YouTube videos evidencing his remarkable work, one of which he cured someone's fear of flying in just seven minutes.

"Can the phobia I’ve had for 15 years really be cured in one session?" was one of the first things I asked him when I arrived in his phobia clinic on Harley Street; a calm and cosy space that thankfully felt more comforting than clinical.

While Christopher explained that some clients might take longer to let go of fears, he seemed confident that I would leave the room feeling somewhat alleviated of the intensity of my phobia.

Woman holding snake on her hand
My fear of snakes didn't even allow me to look at photographs (Unsplash)

We covered a lot of ground in our 90-minute session, from my childhood to my parents' divorce, my identity as an adult and desires for my future self. I laughed, cried (much to my surprise), and even fought back nausea in the whirlwind hour-and-a-half spent at Chrisopher’s Harley Street practice.

We started by talking about how I feel when I think about snakes. We then moved on to my first memories of reptiles and touched on childhood memories that could have triggered a traumatic response to them.

Christopher's goal was to change my emotional response to serpents. He did this using a variety of techniques he has coined the Integrated Change System, which uses a blend of traditional therapies that aims to create change in the subconscious.

Despite unexpectedly bursting into tears, which was shortly followed by a fit of laughter, Christopher never made me feel embarrassed or shameful about being scared of snakes.

We revisited deeply personal childhood memories and tapped into emotions I hadn't confronted face on since my early years, and he instantly built up a trusting space for me to do so.

Growing up, I loved all animals
Growing up, I loved all animals

While I didn't have to come face-to-face with a real snake, a deceptively real toy replica emerged from his cupboard towards the end of our 90 minutes together. I was asked to hold it, and I could barely touch it at an arm's length.

"It hasn't worked," I thought to myself. Yet using the anti-anxiety techniques we had introduced throughout the session, including tapping, pressure points and using an action to induce the return of a happy memory, within ten minutes I had the sleek, black rubbery serpent coiled on my lap.

The change to my overall happiness has been transformative

So am I completely cured? I'm yet to put it to the test with a physical snake, but the very same day I left Christopher's clinic I was able to look at photographs and videos without feeling my throat constrict. On my train back to the office I Googled 'snake' and spent the entire journey scrolling through images of reptiles, something I haven't been able to do for a decade.

It's been three months since our session, and my dreams are no longer plagued by snakes constricting my throat, and I've found that I no longer 'plan ahead' for unlikely and irrational scenarios that had taken up so much of my brain space before.

I'm happier since making the decision to face my phobia

It's a small milestone, but a major one for me after battling daily anxieties that I would have to involuntarily watch a snake video that comes up on my TikTok feed.

If you're thinking about taking the plunge and tackling your fear, I couldn't recommend it more - but you do have to be willing to welcome and embrace any unnatural feelings that occur as a result of this kind of therapy. There is an understanding that you have to want to change in order to unravel the fear, and I can understand why.