Woman Uses Toddlers to Treat Phobias

(Note: For the more oblivous among you, this is a satirical "article" in the style of The Onion. It is not true, so please don't become outraged.)

A Springfield, Missouri mother with no academic training in psychology has pioneered the next big therapy revolution, what she calls Toddler Therapy. The technique places adults with phobias in the situations they fear with a toddler under their care. The phobic individuals are so consumed by the unruly behavior of the toddler, the fear of the situation itself pales in comparison. Jane Smith explains that she came up with the idea while traveling on a plane with her two-year-old daughter, Susie. "I used to be a nervous flyer. I would do a Hail Mary at take off and landing just in case the plane went down. But flying with Susie, if I thought about death at all, it just seemed like a relief."

Mike Jones was successfuly treated for a fear of snakes. He was paired with 2-year-old Johnny and placed in a room with several non-poisonous snakes. "Johnny immediately started stepping on the snakes, swinging them around, biting them...I couldn't believe it, but I found myself coming to their rescue. I felt too sorry for them to be afraid." Annette Miller had a similar experience while being treated for agoraphobia. Once in a public place with 2-year-old Joey, she didn't have time to have a panic attack. "He was immediately on the other side of the park, had his diaper off, and was peeing on an elderly woman. What was I supposed to do? I couldn't very well assume the fetal position."

Smith's therapies have aroused plenty of controversy. She has been investigated for child abuse and child labor law violations. But attempts to pursue legal action against her have so far not been successful because she has the permission of all the toddlers' parents. "When I first had the idea, I thought it wouldn't work because where was I going to find parents willing to let an emotionally unstable person babysit their kid? ," she says. "Turns out, there are plenty of parents of toddlers who will do almost anything for free childcare." She explains this is particularly true of very badly behaved toddlers, the ones who work best in her therapies anyway.

Still, she worries her legal troubles may one day catch up with her and is exploring other options, including using celebrity adults instead of toddlers. "I think having to cater to Mariah Carey or Diana Ross could have the same effect as taking care of a toddler," Smith surmises. "In both cases, you would have to deal with outrageous, self-centered behavior." She has been in contact with the Los Angeles Police Department about allowing celebrities sentenced to community service to participate in her program. She says both Naomi Campbell and Lindsay Lohan have expressed interest. "I think either of them would be ideal," she says.


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