Fear of spiders? Wildlife park comes up with a novel solution

SHEPRETH Wildlife Park has launched Phobia Coaching Sessions for people who have a fear of certain animals – whether that be the usual spiders and snakes or something a little bit more, well, strange.

BEFORE we start this let’s make one thing clear – I used to be completely petrified of spiders, and yes I already know I’m a big girl’s blouse.

However, read on to see how I got to the point where a tarantula crawling over me wasn’t actually that bad…

Phobia expert and therapist Grace Dickinson, who has 10 years experience and a 100 per cent success rate, said: “We had a man come in a few weeks back who scared to death of toads – he ran a mile when we brought it into the room.

“Believe it or not these fears are not that uncommon, people are scared of birds, toads, lizards, absolutely all sorts.

“It is sometimes hard to understand why, but a lot of fears date back to caveman times when it was safer to be scared of these animals because they can be a threat.

“However many are learnt during your life following a bad experience – here it Shepreth we aim to turn that around and educate people on the animal.”

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Grace, 27, has a very calm demeanour and that settles the fluttering heart. With my stomach tied in knots, and no doubt sweat patches under the arms, I begin the phobia session.

Firstly, all sessions can be held in complete private or in public. The choice is yours, so there is no need to worry about crying, being sick, fainting or all of the above.

Secondly it is a gradual process, and to be honest, one that you are not completely aware of because each stage is so gentle. Before you know it you are handling the thing from your nightmares.

Fang showing

After an educational session on the various parts of a tarantula, what it does when it hangs out, how it reacts to humans, and its behaviour, old skins that have been shed are brought out to help me get a feel of what to expect.

The texture is different to how I expected and soft, which is a real comfort to me. I ask a few questions about the beast, or Bessie as she is called, jumping at me, biting me or killing me – thankfully all responses are negative.

And so the moment of truth arrives. At first my reaction to having a live tarantula next to me is unsettling in the extreme, but gradually a warm to the fact that it poses no threat to me and against all senses telling me to run I let it crawl onto my hand.

Soft and gentle is the result, no killing or fang showing or what ever my brain told me would happen, just a delicate chilled out spider perched in my hand. Confidence soon grows and before long we are passing her back and forward like a young puppy.

The sense of relief is amazing and I can really recommend this to people who have fears – it is not a case of jumping in, and it can take more than one session, but gradually you will learnt to love, or at least understand, the thing you fear.

Give it a try.


Shepreth Wildlife Park, nr Royston

One-to-one coaching sessions with Grace

�75 per one hour session (refreshments included)

You must be 18 or over

Appointment only

Call 01763 262 226

Or e-mail office@sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk