Driving Desensitization

Do you remember the last time you ran out of coffee? Or got a call from the school saying your child was sick and needed to be picked up? Was your first thought to jump in the car and go to the store or the school?

Lots of people approach driving without a second thought. But there are others who feel anxious at the thought of getting in a car, let alone behind the wheel. For others they may be actively driving, however dread every car journey and have developed coping strategies, such as only travelling on certain roads, avoiding driving during certain times of the day, always being on the lookout for bad drivers, and giving the driver instructions when a passenger due to their car travel anxiety.

Does this sound familiar? If so, then it is likely that you are experiencing driving anxiety.

What is Driving Anxiety?

Driving anxiety, often classified as a phobia of driving, can be triggered by a car accident or another bad experience. It can look different for different people, but generally, it’s a fear of making a driving behavioural error or of having a panic attack while driving. Or that another driver will make an error, causing an accident.

Some people are able to drive, but feel significant anxiety while behind the wheel. Other people’s fears stop them from driving, even if they are medically safe to do so.

Like many of other types of anxiety or phobias, the longer someone puts off driving the more difficult it becomes to return to it.

OTs & Driving Anxiety

Our OTs help people develop practical , useful anxiety management skills, like mindfulness, diaphragmatic breathing, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies. These tools can help interrupt anxious thoughts and assist you with learning healthier coping skills to better manage your anxiety and fears.

Another type of treatment is Exposure Therapy, the process of gradually exposing clients to situations that cause distress. The aim of exposure therapy is to assist the client to be able to approach and engage with feared stimuli, by promoting fear/anxiety tolerance and inhibitory learning. As no two anxious clients present with the same fears or avoidance patterns; the need for a patient specific approach is a main characteristic of exposure therapy. This type of treatment is done with a licensed driving instructor and OT working together to support anxiety management and enhance driving skills to improve confidence and comfort in a car.

Assessment & Treatment

During an assessment, your OT will spend about 1.5-2 hours with you.

After the assessment, the OT will design a personalized treatment plan geared toward your specific needs and anxieties. Here’s a sample of what treatment could look like:

    • 10 to 12 in-car sessions with your OT and a driving instructor.
    • 2 to 4 meetings with your OT to practice skills, like relaxation and mindfulness, and review homework between in-car sessions.
    • More sessions could be recommended to help someone return to driving.


  • Occupational Therapist – $130.00 per hour
  • Driving Instructor – $100 per session

We are committed to helping clients build the skills and gain the confidence they need to get back on the road. Please contact us for more information and click here to submit an online referral today.