Part One: Therapy for Anxiety

March 1, 2023

Anxious feelings are normal and a healthy part of life. It is normal to feel an increase in anxiety before a big test, work presentation, or meeting a new person. However, if anxious feelings become persistent and overwhelming, or your anxiety starts to interfere with your day-to-day life, you or your child might be struggling with an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States but there are many options for treatment. Many people turn to therapy for help with their anxiety disorder. If you’re considering therapy for anxiety, here is some great insight from our team members on their approach to providing therapy for clients who suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Tiffaney Knight, Resident in Counseling

As someone who struggles with anxiety myself, I find it easy to put myself in my client’s shoes and empathize with how they’re feeling. I understand how our ‘worry’ brain can take over and cause us not to be able to function and do everyday life tasks. When treating anxiety I use a lot of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and psychoeducation.

We talk about the importance of speaking to our worry and debunking the many lies our worries try to get us to believe. When treating anxiety I want to empower my clients to know that they are in control and not the anxiety. We work on strategies that help us push past the anxiety and get back to everyday life.

Amy Andrukonis, Supervisee in Clinical Social Work

It’s hard to live with worries. I often want to make my worries go away completely. My guess is that you can relate. The tough thing is that our worries actually have an important job – they guide us away from unsafe or unwise decisions. In my practice, I teach clients that we have a relationship with our worry. Sometimes we even give our worry a silly name. I teach them what I know about worry – that sometimes it wants to take on jobs that don’t belong to it (Worry isn’t the boss of whether or not you try out for the school play!).

We can learn distress tolerance skills to self-soothe in those moments when Worry wants to take charge. At the same time, sometimes Worry’s voice is worth listening to – for example, if we are playing outside and it begins to thunder and lightning, Worry is right to tell us to head indoors. We can learn the difference between moments where Worry can have a voice, and moments when Worry is not the one to listen to.

I find that kids intuitively grasp and feel respected by this approach, and guiding kids as they develop a healthy relationship with their worries is a very rewarding part of my job.

Lydia Hatcher, Resident in Counseling 

Anxiety is stressful for several reasons. It often shows up unexpectedly. It varies in intensity. It causes feelings of fear, confusion, worry, and frustration for many who suffer from it. Clients often feel they have no control over their feelings or their symptoms. Feeling vulnerable and unsettled is also how clients describe their experience with anxiety, causing them to struggle with feeling fully present in their lives. I have found that clients benefit from a therapeutic relationship that first acknowledges and validates the client in their explanation and description of their symptoms and their suffering. Working with clients who are struggling with anxiety helps them feel less alone and safer in therapy sessions, as they work to explore and examine their symptoms and triggers.

It also allows a space for challenging perceptions about anxiety and finding other ways for the client to feel hopeful about their ability to find ways to manage it. As the clinician in the room with this client, watching as hope grows in the client as they explore their strength and build their skills around identifying and managing their symptoms, I have the best seat in the room to be able to reflect that hope back to them.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the Therapy for Anxiety series.

Until then, Be Wise!