Washington Hospital Center's Winter Psychiatric Lecture Series kicks off this Friday with a discussion of phobias.

"We want people to understand that phobias can be understood and are treatable," said Dr. Stephen Peterson, a psychiatrist in the hospital's Department of Psychiatry who will lead the discussion. "People don't realize they can be helped and sometimes remain housebound because of their fears."

Phobias such as agoraphobia (fear of being in open or public places), acrophobia (fear of heights), and claustrophobia (fear of confined places) will be discussed along with ways to treat them.

The purpose of the lecture series is to provide the public with general information on a variety of topics. Other discussions in the 10-part series will focus on: an electro-convulsive therapy update, hypnosis and its applications, multiple personality disorders and women and relationships in the 1980s.

"We want the opportunity to let people be more comfortable with the whole issue of psychiatry," said Ceola Loan, program coordinator.

The free lectures take place every Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., starting Feb. 7 and ending April 11. They will be held in the East Building Auditorium of the Washington Hospital Center, 110 Irving St. NW. For more information or for flyers, call Ceola Loan: 541-7351.