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Teen With Intense Fear Of Furry Animals Set To Get A Dog After Being 'Cured' By Hypnotherapy

Anna and Imogen Griffith (Collect / PA Real Life)

A delighted mom praised a hypnotherapist's “magic" touch after he “cured" her daughter's lifelong phobia of furry animals in a single 60-minute session – meaning the family can finally get a dog.

Terrified of popular household pets like cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, since being “spooked" when a neighbor's cat crept up on her when she was just six months old, schoolgirl Imogen Griffith, 17, went to extraordinary lengths to avoid them.

But when a friend told her childcare worker mom, Anna Griffith, 42, she had spent £200 (~$260) on a session with an extraordinary hypnotherapist to help her with her own issue, she decided to see if he could banish her daughter's fear.

Imogen Griffith petting Sonny for the first time (Collect / PA Real Life)

Anna, of Stourbridge, West Midlands, England, who also has an older daughter, child care apprentice Liah, 18, with her husband, Stuart, 46, a steel worker, said:

“Honestly, it was like magic."
“One minute she was petrified of anything with fur. The next, after hypnotherapy, she was completely comfortable kneeling down and petting Sonny, her aunt Kate's pet Border Terrier and Jack Russell cross – even saying he was cute."
“I couldn't believe my eyes. I burst into tears as soon as I saw her do it. It was a historic moment for us as a family, it was something I never thought I'd see. It's the best £200 I've ever spent. It's been absolutely life-changing for us all and next month we're getting a pet Cavapoo – a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a poodle."

Anna, Imogen, Liah and Stuart Griffith (Collect / PA Real Life)

Until her 60-minute session in July with leading Coventry-based psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, Nick Davies, Imogen refused to even enter parks until someone had made sure there were no animals in sight.

Anna recalled:

“We had to look around first before we went on walks to the park with Imogen, to make sure there were no animals nearby. Or if we went to people's houses and they had pets, we'd have to ask them to keep them locked up."

Particularly scared of dogs, if one bounded up to Imogen, the results were disastrous.

Recalling an incident when she was four and came face to face with a puppy, Anna said:

“I'd managed to coax her out to play in some nearby woods, which was quite an achievement."
“But a puppy appeared from nowhere and Imogen shot off, without a second glance."
“I've never seen anything like it! She ran right from the top of the hill all the way to the bottom. She was completely terrified and inconsolable when I finally caught up with her."

Imogen Griffith petting Sonny for the first time (Collect / PA Real Life)

A few years later, Imogen put herself in danger, as she fled from a barking dog.

“We were walking near the canals by our home, " said Anna. “Imogen was walking along some rocks when a dog appeared and started barking. All of sudden, she leapt off the rocks, which were pretty high up and legged it."

“She had no fear of hurting herself, or of the dangers of jumping down. All she was concerned about was getting as far away from that dog as she possibly could."

Imogen Griffith as a baby (Collect / PA Real Life)

At first, Anna thought her youngest daughter was only scared of cats and dogs, so decided to get some guinea pigs for her children when Imogen was nine.

She said:

“We kept them in the garden, but she wasn't entirely comfortable with even that. We managed to get her to hold them a few times, but she wouldn't hold them without putting a pair of gloves on first."

In a bid to reduce her fear, Anna tried to persuade Imogen to spend short amounts of time with other people's pets, so she could see she was safe. But her attempts were in vain.

“She even refused to be in the same room as newborn puppies," said Anna. “She was especially scared of dogs. Instead of seeing them as cute, she saw them as a threat to life."

Strangely, despite her phobia of furry animals, Imogen was completely fearless when it came to creatures most people find terrifying.

“Give her a snake or a spider and there's no problem," said Anna. “She's always absolutely loved them. She will even happily hold them."

Imogen Griffith petting Sonny for the first time (Collect / PA Real Life)

Anna clearly remembers the incident that she believes sparked her daughter's fear of cuddly animals.

She said:

“She was about six months old and was sat up playing in my sister Kate's front room when the neighbor's cat waltzed in."
“The cat didn't go near her, it just walked past her, but I think she was shocked by it, as it took her very much by surprise."

Imogen Griffith (Collect / PA Real Life)

When Imogen turned three and had enough vocabulary to explain how she felt, the impact of this incident became apparent.

“When she was a toddler, she started refusing to go for walks or out to the park," Anna said. “She would say she was worried about the animals we might see. She was a very anxious and wouldn't leave my side very often."

But, as the years passed, even Imogen became sick of her phobia having such a hold so, when Anna suggested trying hypnotherapy, she jumped at the chance.

She said:

“I told her about the hypnotherapy, but I didn't want to push her into it if she wasn't ready. Then she told me she was ready for a change, so I booked her in on July 21."
“The only thing she said was, 'What if it doesn't work?' I told her that wasn't an option and that it had to work."

Arriving at Nick's home for the session, he used a technique called BLAST – asking Imogen to focus on a spot on the wall until her vision went cloudy, then to close her eyes. Then she was asked to open them again and follow a pen light with them.

Imogen Griffith (Collect / PA Real Life)

Spending just under an hour speaking to Imogen about her fears, he then asked Anna to speak with her daughter for the last part of the session.

“We all respected social distancing and he asked me to tell Imogen what we were going to do when we left the session," she said.

“I told her we were going to go to my sister's Kate's house, to see her dog, Sonny, which we did, and that she would feel safe."

But, while Nick removed Imogen's fear of furry creatures, he made sure she knew when to be scared of dangerous animals.

“He said she must keep some fear of scary dogs that growl and show their teeth," said Anna. “We didn't want her trying to pat a dangerous dog and having her hand bitten off!"

When, after the session, they arrived at Imogen's aunt Kate's house, Sonny, was sitting on the front porch waiting for them.

She said:

“Imogen asked if Sonny could be taken into the garden. We did as she asked but, instead of running away, she walked straight up to him, bent down so she was at his level and stroked him for the very first time."
“We all burst into tears. Honestly, it was nothing short of a miracle. Afterwards, Imogen said she couldn't believe how soft and cute Sonny was. it was really incredible."

And she is not only at ease with Sonny.

“We were walking into town the other day and there was a dog walking past." said Anna. “It suddenly started barking, which would have made Imogen run a mile before the hypnotherapy, but she didn't even flinch."

Now the family are going to celebrate Imogen overcoming her phobia by getting their very own pet dog.

“I can't believe we can now actually get a family dog," said Anna. “Imogen's even asking if we can get it before next month, as she's so excited, which is remarkable."

She continued:

“It's honestly a miracle. I'd never thought about hypnotherapy until my friend recommended it. But I would advise people to go in with an open mind, relax and listen, because honestly, whatever you need it for, it'll change your life for the better."

No one in the family is more grateful for the transformation than Imogen.

She said:

“It's such a relief that I don't have to be scared anymore. Now whenever I go out, I'm not checking whether there's going to be a dog round the corner anymore."

She added:

“It's such a weight off my shoulders – I said to my mum the other day when we were out 'Look, there's a cute dog' and that's something I'd never dreamed of saying before in my life."

Psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Nick Davies explained how the technique he used worked. He said:

“Neuroscience research shows that structures in the right side of the brain are overactive and acting as if there is an immediate threat in sufferers of PTSD and trauma."
“The BLAST Technique® utilizes precise bi-lateral movements with a light pen and specific suggestions to the client which helps reprocess the traumatic event so they understand what happened and can remember, but it no longer has any physical or emotional response."