Researchers from the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands conducted a non-randomized study to evaluate the usefulness of a trauma-focused treatment approach for travel phobia or milder travel anxiety arising as a result of a road traffic accident.
Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) were used to treat a sample of 184 patients, who were referred to a psychological rehabilitation provider.
Patients in both treatment groups were encouraged to encounter their feared situations between sessions. Travel phobia was officially diagnosed in 57% of cases.
Patients in both treatment conditions – the CBT and the EMDR - showed equally large, and clinically significant, decreases in symptoms as found with three validated measures (Impact of Event Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and General Health Questionnaire), as well as the therapists’ ratings of treatment outcome, and a return to driving or travelling by car or motorbike. These improvements were obtained over an average course of 7.3 sessions of 1 hour each.
Patients with travel phobia responded with a greater reduction of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms than those with milder travel anxiety. Passengers reported higher levels of trauma symptoms than drivers, but no difference in effectiveness of treatment was found between these groups.
These results suggest that trauma-focused psychological interventions can be a treatment alternative for patients with travel anxiety. Given the seriousness of the clinical problems related to road traffic accidents more rigorous outcome research is warranted and needed.