Thrive in Scotlands very own Katie Gow, former emetophobia sufferer, decided to really challenge herself and overcome a lifelong fear…

When I was 11 years old, at school camp, we were made to climb a very tall totem pole which had a platform at the top with the intension to leap off with a harness on and hit a ball that was suspended from the air. All I remember from that moment was getting about three steps up and freezing whilst the teacher tried to nudge me up and the whole class laughing at me. I gave up, climbed down feeling humiliated.

I’d always avoided physical challenges like that – not feeling strong enough or capable enough, not wanting to make a mistake and embarrass myself. I had built this picture in my head of myself being the type of person who just couldn’t do these types of challenges. Always worried, I’d freak out, panic, cry and embarrass myself. So, in order to avoid that feeling entirely, I always declined when opportunities arose.

When I developed emetophobia (a fear of being sick) as a teenager I had even more reason to avoid challenging myself. With challenges comes nerves, with nerves comes butterflies and nausea and it wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
Nearly 20 years on from that school camp experience I find myself strapped into a harness once more, suspended five stories high in an indoor climbing centre ready and willing to do a free decent abseil. I was no longer that scared, helpless person because I had chosen to break down those beliefs about myself and build new ones. I was now tackling challenges head on with excitement, not bothered about the butterflies in my tummy.

Katie Gow

Feeling the exhilaration of quite literally stepping out of my comfort zone. The person I am today is in no way influenced by the experiences I had as a child or the way I used to see myself, because I choose to see things differently now.

Having done The Thrive Programme, the changes have been visible to me and to those around me. When I told people I was doing the abseil they were surprised and most people said “You wouldn’t find me doing that…good luck!” Instead of letting people’s opinions and comments scare me, I saw how impressive this challenge was actually going to be and that I would feel really proud of myself when I did it.

There were some nerves, as expected, but without the nerves really all it would be is lowering yourself on a rope, where’s the fun in that?! The big difference was that the nerves were exciting to me now – I could cope with them, I was no longer emetophobic so feeling a little queasy on my way to the climbing centre wasn’t an issue. I think my husband was feeling more nervous for me, he had done this exact same abseil before when he was a youth group worker and he didn’t like it one bit.

In the car on the way there we spoke about it and that was when I learnt that the abseil would not be walking down a wall like I had imagined, it would be suspended in mid air. This took me by surprise and after the initial “Why didn’t you tell me that!?” rant, I took a deep breath and just decided to go with it.

At the centre I met my instructor Glen Gordon, who was really great – really supportive and patient. Looking up at where I would do the abseil from was pretty scary but we did a practice on a smaller wall to get me used to the ropes and the lowering process. I really enjoyed the wall climbing, which surprised me a lot. It gave me the boost of confidence I needed to tackle the abseil.

I was so much calmer than I expected and actually really excited when I was getting set up. I just got on with it without any fuss. When I started the descent I found it surprisingly calming, it was so relaxing and I felt more in control than I thought I would. I did the abseil twice more, the last from a slightly trickier spot. Even when the rope was spinning round as I was descending it didn’t bother me at all. This experience had been amazing and I was keen to do it again in the future.

So what did The Thrive Programme do that helped turn this once helpless, frightened, shy girl into the woman I was today? First and foremost, it built up my confidence and self esteem. I started to see myself in a totally different way, and because I was feeling better about myself I felt able to take on challenges and break down those unkind beliefs I held about myself and my abilities.

A belief is really just a thought you keep thinking, so once I was able to be kinder to myself and respect myself more I no longer spoke to myself in such a harsh way. I am now able to support myself through life’s ups and downs and be more resilient.


The Thrive Programme and Cure Your Emetophobia & Thrive teaches people to achieve great mental health and overall happiness, leaving limiting beliefs and habits that negatively affect their ability to enjoy life and Thrive. The programme is available as a book or one-to-one via a Thrive Consultant. If Katie’s story sounds familiar, either from your perspective or a friend’s, get in touch today. 

Katie now works as a Thrive Consultant, using her experience and training to help people with mental health challenges, such as emetophobia. 

If you suffer from depression, you must read this.

Depression help: Here is a blog post we’ve done for the main Thrive Programme website which is worth a few minutes of your time if you’d like

a) to know the truth about depression,

b) find a way to look at depression in a different more helpful (or hopeful) way, and

c) hear it from someone who beat his depression (or changed his thinking) via The Thrive Programme.

Most people suffering from depression and related conditions believe exactly as I did for many years; that there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Some sort of misplaced connection that’s different to everyone else, like a badly-wired plug or a car with an intermittent fault that nobody else can experience or see but you.

BUT, I can tell you now with a great degree of certainty – informed by my own experience and that of many others who suffered from lifelong depression – that this isn’t the case.

Yes, your GP and NHS-based mental health practitioner will have explained how your brain chemistry is the mental equivalent of a school science experiment gone wrong because that’s the way that the general medical profession have viewed many mental health problems for decades. Their solution to this is to medicate. You break a leg and it’s obvious that your bone has physically snapped and needs to be put in plaster – thus, when you suffer from a mental health problem your brain must be chemically broken or damaged in the same way and needs fixing.

This isn’t true a lot of the time. As complex creatures, humans have become adept at creating these problems for ourselves through the way we process events and things that happen to us, even though we don’t do this consciously or with any awareness of what we’re doing. This is a well-established concept with considerable research behind it stretching back decades. Perhaps the best known and most compelling study on this subject was published in 1984 by Jerry M Burger, the highly respected professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University.

Jeremy Burger studied students over a six-month period and identified thinking styles and habits that led to mental health problems – for example, students who thought their lives were generally controlled by chance were most likely to have suicidal thoughts. It was also found that subjects with a high desire for control in their lives – manifesting itself in something like anxiety or OCD-type symptoms – who held external perceptions of control (i.e. they thought that their life is dictated by outside influences such as relationships or work) were most likely to seek nonprofessional help for depression.

Going further back, Beck (1972) proposed holding certain beliefs, such as a negative views of oneself, pessimism about the future, and interpretation of ongoing experiences in a negative manner, are responsible for many subsequent depressive episodes. Further studies by Abramson, Seligman, and Teasdale (1978), and Miller and Norman (1979) explored the relation between thought processes and depression.

In short, these and many more academic studies consistently link – what can loosely be described as – ‘unhelpful thought processes’ to many common mental health problems. There is little evidence of chemical imbalances or ‘faulty wiring’ being the actual cause.

So, the big question is: how does this all help you right now if you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or a similar condition? The good news is that your brain almost certainly isn’t broken, faulty or different to everyone else’s. The likelihood is that you’ve processed certain life events or experiences in a way that leads to feelings of helplessness, lack of control and negativity (see Beck’s 1972 list above) and subsequent depression, anxiety or similar mental health condition has then taken its grip. This is exactly what happened to me.

And because I created this problem, I’m the one who can fix it. And I’ve done just that.

Several months ago I found out about something called The Thrive Programme following a chance conversation with a friend. I made the call and signed up to see a Thrive Consultant immediately. When I began I was on two different types of medication prescribed by my well-meaning GP – a mood stabiliser and strong anti-depressant – and I’d also put on weight, had low self-esteem, no job, no home and generally not a lot going for me (or so I thought). My life was dominated by negative thought processes and I felt mentally ill – like the wiring in my brain was fundamentally broken or different to everyone else’s.

After the very first Thrive Programme training session (I had six in total) I felt much more in control. After the second session, I already noticed and improvement in my depression! Twelve weeks after starting the programme (six weeks after finishing it) I stopped taking my medication, and I haven’t messed it or needed it since.It’s now five months later and life couldn’t be better. The programme taught me how process past and current events effectively, and to think in such a way that I don’t allow negativity to creep in and begin that destructive cycle of unhelpful thought processes that van lead to depression – as identified by Berger et al.

The power of developing the kind of positive thinking and outlook taught by The Thrive Programme is highlighted in the graph below, which measures three key attributes before and after going through the course. The results speak for themselves.

I now feel equipped to deal with things that would’ve previously caused my mental health to suffer – I’m resilient, happy, productive and every aspect of my life has improved. The best thing is that, by using the techniques and strategies I learnt through Thrive, I’ve helped myself with no medication or therapists to prop me up. For the first time in recent memory, I feel ‘normal’, and I love it.

James R