TWO BALLYMENA women have said their lives have "been totally transformed" after using hypnosis to cure their phobias of household pets.
After living for 28 years with a numbing fear of dogs Nicola Dempster said her life has become a whole lot easier.
Nicola was always scared of dogs which made the most normal of activities impossible.
Speaking to the Ballymena Guardian, Nicola said she still can't believe that hypnosis worked and has changed her life.
"I never thought I would be free from my phobia.
"It stopped me doing so many things," Nicola explained.
"I couldn't go for a walk on the beach or go to a park with my family because I was so afraid of dogs being off the lead.
"When I was planning days out I would often email the places before I went to check if there were areas that dogs were not allowed or had to be kept on their leads."
Nicola's fear was so bad that in Primary 7 her parents arranged for her to speak to a psychiatrist.
"I was very young but even that didn't work. My parents told me I was just going to speak to someone about my fear of dogs but I didn't fully understand the enormity of it."
Nicola continued: "The psychiatrist would give me tasks to carry out each week but none of it worked and as I got older my fear just got worse.
"One day I went to Crawfordsburn with my fiancé and a dog came right up beside me and I totally freaked out."
After years of torment Nicola decided to get in contact with Alan Gichrist who holds hypnotherapy sessions in the Adair Arms every Thursday evening.
"In my head I didn't think it would work. If I am honest I didn't think anything would ever work but I went along to the session anyway."
After only three sessions Nicola said she was able to walk past a dog in the street which wasn't on a lead.
"I didn't even think about it. It didn't bother me at all," Nicola explained.
"I have lived with this phobia all my life and hypnotherapy has totally changed my life.
"People who know me knew the extent of my fear and they are shocked at the outcome."
Another woman who has benefited from hypnotherapy is Karen McCullough.
Karen's fear of cats started 20 years ago when one came in through her window.
"I couldn't get the cat back out of the house and from that moment I was petrified of them," Karen explained.
"It stopped me going places with my children because they were everywhere."
The decision to do something about her fear came this Summer after a holiday in Mexico.
"My holidays were ruined because the cats were all around the hotel. If we were having dinner I would have to get up and leave if a cat came anywhere near us."
Karen continued: "I needed to do something about it because it was disrupting all aspects of my life.
"In my job as a hairdresser I have to go bride’s homes for weddings and it was so bad that I couldn't go in if they had a cat."
Karen got in contact with Alan and after four sessions her phobia had gone.
So much so that on a recent holiday in Turkey she was even able to lift the cats which were around her hotel.
"It has changed my life completely and I am so grateful to Alan for helping me overcome this phobia."