A Lifetime in the Making

Nov 19, 2011 by Tom Dellner

Dr. Sandra Pollino Leverages Her Multifaceted Career in Authoring Innovative Book on Air Travel Anxiety

Sandra PollinoCalSouthern PsyD graduate Sandra Pollino has called upon her unique life experience as a nurse, counselor, psychotherapist, performance coach, and flight attendant to write Flying Fear Free: Seven Steps to Relieving Air Travel Anxiety. To be released in January 2012, Flying Fear Free outlines air travel anxiety’s common causes, typical symptoms, and seven steps to flying more comfortably.

It’s a unique, comprehensive, and integrated approach to this common phobia, from which more than 25 million Americans suffer. Dr. Pollino has chosen an interesting format for the book, which includes several vignettes to assure readers that they are not alone, statistical information, and extensive descriptions of a typical commercial airplane and its crew, all in addition to her holistic program to alleviate this anxiety.

CalSouthern caught up with Dr. Pollino to discuss the book and its innovative approach, the publishing process, her plans for the future, and her CalSouthern experience.


California Southern University: What were your motivations for writing Flying Fear Free?

Dr. Sandra Pollino: The fear of flying is something I’ve always been interested in, and it’s something that has kept resurfacing throughout my professional life.

Originally a nurse, I took a break from my career due to illness and then decided to fly with the airlines as a flight attendant. I found that I was frequently using elements of my nursing training and experience to help fearful flyers. It occurred to me that I would benefit from more education and training, so I got my degree in counseling, then worked as a counselor in private practice and with the postal service as an employer assistance consultant and clinician. We provided counseling for employees and their families. Phobias—particularly the fear of flying—came up frequently, and I was able to help these clients. As I moved into education—teaching psychology—I often found classroom discussion turning to this phobia.

So, the fear of flying just kept popping up in my life. I was struck by the scope of the problem and the clear need for a different, and hopefully more effective, approach to the problem. And as my exposure and skills mounted, I was motivated to keep reading and seeking additional education in this area.

So, leveraging my unique background, I put together a program to treat this anxiety. I used it while practicing with the postal service, and I also was asked to do presentations at various airports and for organizations that traveled frequently (e.g., symphonies, sports teams, etc.).

I began to experience quite a bit of success with the program; it became clear to me that it was effective. My motivation in writing the book was to bring this treatment to as many people as possible, worldwide.


CalSouthern: What makes your program unique among those designed to treat air travel anxiety?

Dr. Pollino: It’s unique in that it calls upon my experience and expertise as a nurse, counselor, psychotherapist, performance coach, and flight attendant, and integrates it all into a comprehensive approach. The seven steps incorporate elements not only from traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, but also from power therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, color therapy, dream work, progressive muscle relaxation, prayer and spirituality, and self talk, among others. It also covers diet, exercise and wellness, and preventative techniques, and has an extensive educational component.

It’s an extremely eclectic, holistic approach that I’ve developed over a long and multifaceted career. The program is simple and easy to use. And it works.

Essentially, it’s a matter of working with whatever the presenting problem might be, and mining all the available therapies and techniques to find one—or a combination of them—that will alleviate the anxiety.


CalSouthern: How pervasive is the fear of flying?

Dr. Pollino: It’s probably the second-most pervasive phobia after the social phobias like the fear of public speaking—and it’s growing. One reason for the growth lies in the extent to which the media covers air travel incidents. Accidents are covered for days and sometimes weeks. Even averted accidents get extensive coverage. And this feeds anxiety. All the security measures and procedures, while perhaps necessary, add to the stress.


CalSouthern: What was the writing process like? Was it something that you enjoyed?

Dr. Pollino: It was bittersweet, in a way. It was a goal that I had long wanted to achieve so that my work in this area might be of help to people worldwide. And it’s been absolutely wonderful to be able to finally accomplish this. But, the process proved to be extremely challenging. It was a tremendous amount of work: lots of hours, and many rounds of editing, all with the pressure of a looming deadline.

All in all, though, it’s been extraordinarily rewarding; to have a long-term goal become a reality is, in many respects, utterly amazing.


CalSouthern: Was the process as you expected, or were there a few surprises?

Dr. Pollino: Actually, the process went about as I expected, and I have CalSouthern to thank for that. I took Dr. Jonathan Rich’s class on writing and publishing a self-help book. I put all his principles and techniques to use throughout this experience; it was a great help and definitely gave me a leg up. I knew what to expect and how to work with a publishing company. I owe Dr. Rich and CalSouthern many thank-yous.


CalSouthern: You note that the publishing process was challenging. Did you grow professionally or personally from the experience?

Dr. Pollino: Absolutely.

It was a great lesson in patience and perseverance—whether it was doing all the necessary research to ensure that the program was as effective as possible, or making revision after revision to the manuscript. You want the project to move quickly, but that’s just not how these things work.

It can be very difficult to get published in today’s market. I was very fortunate that the people who read my work saw the need for a book like Flying Fear Free, even when there are many other programs out there. They appreciated the uniqueness of the program, and I am very grateful for that.


CalSouthern: Can you share with us your plans for the future?

Dr. Pollino: I took a sabbatical to complete my research and write the book, and now that the book is finished, I’m not exactly sure where my future will take me, to be candid. Academia is where I would ultimately like to be, teaching or mentoring. I’d also like to continue writing and also working with individuals and groups, helping people who struggle with phobia. Performance training remains a passion of mine, as well.


CalSouthern: You mentioned you will continue writing. Do you have any other books in the works?

Dr. Pollino: I do. I also write fiction for teens, with an underlying theme of helping them with first life events. I have a series of these books in the works. I use humor and keep the material light, but I hope to give life messages to teens, another area of great need, in my opinion. It’s great fun.

I also have a workbook that will follow up on Flying Fear Free, with more techniques that readers can use, right at their fingertips.


CalSouthern: You alluded to your time at CalSouthern. What are some of your strongest memories of your experience with the university?

Dr. Pollino: I have so many. My mentors were wonderful. Dr. Allen leaps to mind for all his expertise and the patience he afforded me while working with me on my doctoral project, which, as you might expect, was about the fear of flying. It was wonderful to be able to tailor my project to my area of interest and expertise. I’ll never forget: Dr. Allen told me I would write a book on the subject one day. He was terrific. He, Dr. Rich, Dr. Jacquie Lewis (who taught a wonderful course in dream work), and so many others were fantastic. They, along with Dean Barbara Grimes, were so supportive and motivating, and they also gave me the practical guidance I needed to fine-tune my education and life experiences to enhance my work and achieve my goals.


Please click here to order a copy of Dr. Pollino’s Flying Fear Free: Seven Steps to Relieving Air Travel Anxiety.

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