The Career Doctor™

by Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

Looking for a first job? Thinking of changing careers? Facing a lay-off? The Career Doctor™ is a Larchmont psychologist specializing in career counseling. If you'd like to ask a question of your own, use our anonymous form, and she might answer you here. Read more about the Career Doctor here. Contact information is here.


Dear Reader:

Last week I advised a reader that the quickest way to overcome a public speaking phobia is to get a prescription for inderal. For most people, one inderal tablet an hour before a speech blocks distressing symptoms like blushing, shakey knees and closing throat. Inderal is a high blood pressure medication used by performers because it doesn't dull the mind as tranquilizers sometimes do. However, since many people do not want to, or can't, take medication, here is the psychological cure for a public speaking phobia.

First, the good news: phobias are very cureable! Now the bad news: it can take quite a while to cure a public speaking phobia because they tend to be rather complex. They are complex because the fear tends to have many variables to it, for example, people tend to be more afraid the more they know the audience, the less they know the subject, the longer the speech or the larger the audience.

The standard method of curing a phobia is called "relaxation and desensitization," whereby the therapist teaches the client to relax and then imagine themselves giving a speech. This process proceeds until the client is able to truly imagine themselves speaking without fear. Sound easy? Well, here's where it gets complex: The client and therapist have to create a list of public speaking situations ranging from something so easy that it would create very little fear (maybe just saying your name in front of three people) to the most frightening situation (perhaps speaking to a large hostile audience about a subject one does not know a great deal about.) Then they start with the least fearful situation and only when the client becomes comfortable imagining this easy thing, do they proceed to a slightly more frightening event. It is a step by step approach that makes a person comfortable in their own mind before they actually tackle a real speaking situation. And then, the client takes a step by step approach to real situations too.

This sounds like a waste of time to many people -- especially those without phobias. They say, "Just gather your courage and get up and speak. You'll get used to it." That "sink or swim" approach may work for people who are just a bit nervous, but it definitely does not work for people who are truly afraid or phobic. It overwhelms a phobic person with anxiety and actually makes the fear/phobia work. However, by taking the opposite approach, calming the fear bit by bit while systematically building up comfort and successful experiences, phobias are cured.

The Career Doctor


The Career Doctor™ is Larchmont psychologist and career counselor, Dr. Jacqueline Hornor Plumez.

Her office is at 90 Beechtree Drive in Larchmont, 914-834-1982.


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