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Phobia sessions

Living with spiders

2014 Update

During this year we have been extending our Conservation Education Centre. As we don’t have access to all of our usual rooms, our Living with Spiders course will not be running. In the meantime, if you would like to register your interest, please send your details to this email address, and we will be in touch at the end of the year when the building programme has been completed.


Thank you

At Bristol Zoo Gardens we have responded to the demand for people wanting to get over their fear of spiders by offering a course, called 'Living with spiders'. Led by Mary Ison (a counsellor and hypnotherapist at the Clifton Counselling Clinic) and supported by a member of the Zoo Education team, the course takes place in the Zoo's Conservation Education Centre. You will join a small and personal group, with up to ten participants enjoying a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

“The group was small which was great.  Both the zoo expert and hypnotherapist were very helpful. I got much more out of the experience than I anticipated.”
“What was anticipated as a very daunting experience was completely to the contrary. The course leaders ran the sessions exceptionally well and the size of the class was ideal, enabling useful participation by all present which in itself was a great benefit too. Many thanks.”

The spider phobia treatment course lasts for up to four hours and includes a variety of approaches to help you, including talks, relaxation, hypnotherapy and an optional meeting with our friendly spiders.

Spider Phobia Course content:

  • Arrival at the Conservation Education Centre entrance on Guthrie Road, Clifton, opposite Clifton College
  • Introduction and a talk on phobias
  • Group discussion on how the phobia affects you
  • Relaxation
  • A talk about the wonderful world of spiders – highlighting their anatomy, behaviour and role in nature
  • Refreshment break with a selection of hot drinks and sandwiches
  • Discussion and information about hypnosis
  • Hypnotherapy
  • An optional meeting with friendly spiders. The spiders are in tanks and pots so that they can be examined and passed around safely without damage to the spiders.
  • Presentation of certificate of attendance

Is the course effective?

Graph showing anxiety levels around spiders lowering after attending a Bristol Zoo spider phobia course

Evaluation from the course in 2010 shows that this combination of approaches really does result in a clear positive change in participants’ reactions and emotions towards spiders. Average anxiety levels for participants during face to face spider encounters fell by over a half after the course – see graph to the left.

Participants also described their reactions and emotions to spider encounters in three words. The results pre- and post-course can be seen in the word clouds below with feelings of ‘panic, terror and fear’ being replaced by ones of ‘calm and interested’.

spider phobia course bristol zoo

75% of participants graded the usefulness of the course as 8-10 out of 10 and feedback from previous participants has been extremely positive:

“This has changed my life, thank you.  It is brilliant to be free.”

“I think I am very much better and happier to live in harmony with spiders. Will be interesting to see how it is when we move to Australia and the spiders are dangerous!”

 ‘’Thank you for getting me to the stage where I felt able to (albeit briefly) pick up a spider. I felt a huge sense of achievement and my husband was suitably impressed too.’’

 “Thank you! It’s good, really good to feel at peace with spiders around me… and to know there is a way to tackle phobia effectively.”

The evening costs £95.00 and places are strictly limited to ten people. During relaxation and hypnosis sessions, you will normally be lying on the floor and will need to be comfortable. We provide mats and pillows, but you are welcome to bring your own.  If you prefer not to lie on the floor for any reason, please let us know in advance or call us to discuss any other arrangements.

If you are interested in booking a place on the 'Living with spiders' phobia treatment course, or require any further information, please call: 0117 974 7369 or email

We also run similar courses for people who have a fear of snakes. These only run in response to demand, approximately once a year.

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