Mount Union students will ride Cedar Point's roller coasters to combat phobias

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

[Ed. note: The following is an excerpt of a press release. -J]

Students in Dr. Kevin Meyer's Abnormal Psychology course at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, will be able to take their study of phobias to a whole new level. In this case, up to 42 stories above the ground.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, more than a dozen of Meyer's students will visit Cedar Point to participate in the Face Your Fear Project. During the day, students, who have a professed fear of roller coasters, will have the opportunity to challenge the Sandusky, Ohio, amusement park/resort's roller coasters, including the 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster.

This is the second year in a row the Abnormal Psychology class has visited the park. Last year, 12 students participated and all of them rode at least one coaster. Eight even rode Dragster.

"I was extremely pleased with last year's results," Dr. Meyer said. "In terms of individual goals, each student succeeded. It will be interesting to see if we can replicate last year's success."

This year's project will have 15 students. For some, the challenge is to brave Top Thrill Dragster while for others Millennium Force is the goal. A few others' phobia is being upside down in a roller coaster. One of the students participating has never visited the park and has never been on a roller coaster.

"The class is a real-life example of a treatment called exposure therapy that allows individuals to have gradual exposure to the target of their fear, in this case, roller coasters," Dr. Meyer said. "The park's vast collection of coasters is ideal for this type of approach since it offers mild, moderate and thrilling coasters of nearly every kind."

Read the entire press release on PR Newswire.

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Jeff's avatar

That Dr. Meyer... :)

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Maybe they should drag me along and make me go through the haunts. :)

But seriously, why would anyone sign up for this? Extra credit? I can see if one's phobia is cats, balloons, dark places or such that might cause a disabling or embarrassing freak-out on a daily basis, but roller coasters? Best way to conquer that fear is not to go, like the chap who's managed, somehow, to avoid Cedar Point his whole life. I'm afraid he's in for it!

Can we hide and watch? Now, that would be fun... Or better yet jump in the train behind 'em and tell scary stories all the way up...

For some people it is a fear of heights. Others could have a fear of speed or even the close quarters you are in on a roller coaster.

My wife is afraid of heights, but a few years ago she tried to get over that fear by riding Millennium Force. She rode it, but she won't ride it again.

Lowkae's avatar

Oddly enough, the only problem I ever have these days on rides is claustrophobia. When the ride's still running I'm good because I know that the bar will come up at the end, but once when I was stuck on the brake run of Shivering Timbers and I started feeling uneasy. The idea that I could be stuck in that seat for a very long time made me worry about having to go to the bathroom, etc. Weird.

OhioStater's avatar

Believe it or not, there is absolutely no extra credit attached to this whatsoever. It is part of a relatively small assignment for the class (the other half of the class is doing something else related), but other than that, this is strictly voluntary on their part. Just like last year, I'm personally amazed that they are willing to try this, but they all have one thing in common...they're all tired of being the kid who "holds the bags and stuffed animals" while their friends enjoy the big-boy rides.

They are doing a lot of out-of-class work to get to this point, which again boggles my mind; college students who actually volunteer to do "more" work...but they are motivated.

The girl who has never been on a roller coaster is really, really brave. We watched POV videos as a group last week, and she was actually visibly shaking when she watched Millennium Force. :)

You're more than welcome to tag along and watch. It all starts at Mine Ride at high noon.

Last edited by OhioStater,

I am mixed on people getting over their fears, but believe it or not, my nephew has always been terrified of rides in general..he even was skeptical about getting his drivers license..

I was shocked when we put him on the Midway Carousel (at about age 8) and he clung to the pipe screaming from the up and down motion.

Frog Hopper when he was younger made him red in the face, and he clung so tight to the bars.

When he was a teenager we convinced him Mine Ride was not a big deal. He was fine until the drop near the water, he has never been on a ride of any kind since that day. Mine Ride was too much for him.

They say its ADHD, or other problems. He's 20 now, very smart-maybe too smart, and I think that's why he don't enjoy the rides, He knows everything that could go wrong, and he dwells on it in his head.

And with that said, He will play X-Box, for hours on end and never get motion sickness...

What happens if somebody has a total meltdown?

OhioStater's avatar

Well, that happened last year...almost. This whole project is strictly voluntary, and they are constantly reminded that at any step along the way (the rides get bigger and more intense as we go through the day) they can back out. Last year, many had already achieved their goal midway through the day, and had enough.

I just wrote about this over at P-Buzz. What comes to mind is a girl that started having a fact she was beginning to have a panic attack in line for MF which was her goal...but the group is also a support system for one another, and they have been taught how to deal with this type of issue with all the behind-the-scenes work they do. Essentially, these kids have also gone through about a month of group-therapy with one another at the crack of dawn with me before we get to this day. They are prepared, but they also know that no one is forcing them to do anything, which in reality only serves to drive them to do more.

She remembered her relaxation techniques and all the work she had done, plus looked around and saw everyone around her, and saw through it. Then, as the icing on the cake, she rode Dragster. There were a lot of tears that day, but everyone at least achieved their personal goals...but she was the closest thing to a "meltdown" that we had last year.

If it escalated and the person clearly did not want to continue, I would just be there for them and help them de-escalate, relax, and go from there. Not to sound cliche, but they've already done a lot just by volunteering.

Bakeman31092's avatar

A bunch of my friends and I went to Cedar Point when we were seniors in high school, and one of the guys hopped on Raptor--the first ride of the day--with as much excitement as the rest of us, but got off completely freaked out. I don't know what his background with roller coasters was, but he never mentioned any kind of fear, and like I said he eagerly boarded the train in the beginning.

That ride triggered something in him, and we could only manage to get him on Gemini the rest of the trip (and believe me, we hounded him endlessly). He couldn't even brave Sky Ride from that point on!

He also has a fear of flying, so when he makes trips home for the holidays (from Portland, Oregon to Indianapolis), he takes the train.

Personally, I only fly on Qantas...

My author website: did it go? And was the loss of Iron Dragon a problem?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

OhioStater's avatar

Check out the blog here...

(that's me, by the way, looking like a prophet on a bench trying to calm the masses as the prep for the accident-prone Wildcat) :)

The best, I think, is the audio (3 minutes) piece from WKSU (there is a link to WKSU's article from there).

The loss of Iron Dragon was disappointing, but we had plenty to do that day, so we just moved on.

In the WKSU article, he called Mine Ride "Mean Streak" just ignore that mistake. :)

100% success rate. In fact, every single student besides 1 (who had already reached her goals) actually rode TTD! Even two ladies who had never ridden a coaster before. Tremendous courage on their part.

Robin Innes gave our whole group instant access to Maverick, MF, and TTD at the end of the day...amazing gratitude for what they did for us.

Last edited by OhioStater,
Vater's avatar

OhioStater said:
that's me, by the way, looking like a prophet on a bench trying to calm the masses

Tell the truth. You were reenacting this scene. :)

Good read (and listen). I know quite a few people who would benefit from this therapy.

Or else telling them there's going to be Trouble in River City (with a capital "T" that rhymes with "P" and that stands for "pool").

Jeff's avatar

Follow up story from WKSU:

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

OhioStater's avatar

Vater, how did you know Life of Brian is hands down my favorite Monty Python flick?

Funny tangent...I show the final scene as an example of "religious-based humor" in my psych of humor course. Sad reality is that usually only one of my students has ever even been exposed to the film.

If you live in the area (Canton, Louisville, Akron), check out WKSU (90.3 FM) from 7 - 8 pm tomorrow. I have no idea what is going to come out of my mouth, but they are going to pick my brain one final time about this ordeal. (shameless plug endeth)

We had a "de-briefing" session today on campus for those involved, and one student told me.."when I got off Dragster, I wanted to physically hurt you...but today, I feel like so proud of myself for making it..."

See? Roller coasters aren't just for fun...they're for changing lives. :)

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