swim lessons for adults with water fear

Swim Lessons - Aquatic Trauma Therapy

Blending trauma counselling, exposure treatment, mindfulness and systematic desensitization(1) uniquely for each individual client – for adults and adolescents with water fear (aquaphobia) and/or fear of large, deep bodies of water such as the ocean (thalassophobia).

Available by appointment. Currently based on the Gold Coast of Australia, however the services are mobile. Intensive interventions over consecutive days can be particularly effective.

Please contact Janine to discuss further

About Water Fear

Adults may have developed water fear, sometimes known as aquaphobia, or thalassophobia (fear of large, dark, deep bodies of water such as the ocean) for any number of reasons including experiencing or witnessing one or more traumatic aquatic incidents, or simply through a lack of opportunity to learn to swim as a child.

Fear of water can be a serious and debilitating condition, self-assessed or diagnosable through the DSM V by a doctor or clinical mental health professional.

Symptoms may be diagnosable as specific phobia, or better accounted for as part of a diagnosis of PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, social or generalised anxiety disorder. Subclinical levels of fear may alternatively be present.

Aquaphobia or thalassophobia can significantly limit a person’s life and even increase the risk of drowning in some cases.

This is especially relevant for people born and growing up overseas, now living in a country like Australia where it is considered a cultural norm to swim and enjoy the water (2).

Many people that drown did not intend to be in the water, or otherwise may have overestimated their competence for the situation.

Males account for 80% of all fatal drownings (3).

About Treatment

Treatment involves a gentle, staged and client-paced, trauma-informed approach that blends

  • trauma counselling
  • exposure treatment
  • mindfulness, and
  • systematic desensitization


in a unique combination of land-based and water sessions.

Intensive interventions over consecutive days can be particularly effective.

Anxious learners develop a sense of emotional safety and stability, come to terms with their traumatic memories, and integrate their trauma as they move forward to develop confidence, aquatic skills, and a sense of joy, comfort, and competence in the water.

Achievement of water competence, comfort, and confidence can open the door to a myriad of exhilarating aquatic adventures and to connecting with life on this astonishing planet in entirely new ways.


(1) Wolitzky-Taylor, K. B., Horowitz, J. D., Powers, M. B., & Telch, M. J. (2008, 2008/07/01/). Psychological approaches in the treatment of specific phobias: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 28(6), 1021-1037.

(2) Pidgeon S, Barnsley P, Mahony A (2018) A ten-year national study of overseas-born drowning deaths 2005/06 to 2014/15, Royal Life Saving Society – Australia. Sydney.

(3) Royal Life Saving Society – Australia (2020) Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report 2020, Sydney Australia