As an anxiety therapist, I began helping clients over 20 years ago. During that time, I’ve seen a number of women and men make full recoveries. Sadly, I’ve also seen people struggle to get better.
Today, a friend asked me for advice. He wanted to know what he should look for in his search to find someone to help with his anxiety. Although he is an experienced therapy client, he has never gotten the relief he’s sought.
Here the advice I gave him over coffee…
Tip # 1 -Work With An Anxiety Therapist Who Is Integrative.
Why does this matter? Because not every therapist is well rounded in their treatment approach. Some anxiety therapists focus very cognitively and don’t pay much attention to the body. This matters because for many of us, anxiety is a problem that shows up on our bodies. Our hearts pound, our palms sweat, our chests tighten and we experience muscle tension.
Some clients that I’ve worked with tell me that they have gotten no where in their previous therapy. They may have loved therapy, but they did not progress because their sessions were intellectualized, abstract, “heady” conversations. The therapist did not guide them towards being present in and as their body.
Getting a good outcome matters- and a good anxiety therapist must be able to take a different tack if the treatment is stuck in the doldrums. A therapist who only has one approach can’t help you if what they are doing isn’t working.
Here’s what I’ve seen in my practice: we are all unique. CBT has given some great results to some clients. Others, only benefitted from EMDR. Some clients have found neurofeedback to be the perfect approach for them. While others, had no interest in even trying that treatment modality.
It’s great to have options in case the work stalls
Tip # 2- Work With An Anxiety Therapist Who Understands The Brain- And The Nervous System
Today I read an article that discussed the state of medical practice in our time. The author estimated that in the United Stats, medical practice lags behind research by 20- 50 years! That means there are things we know, particularly about chronic conditions, that do not inform clinical practice. Indeed, the author asserts that medicine has become almost entirely focused on treating acute conditions. It performs well in a crisis, like and accident or a injury. But it does poorly with common chronic conditions, like pain, or G.I. problems.
I would say the same is true in psychology. Few therapists are up to date with what we actually know about how the brain and nervous system work. Some therapists are completely unfamiliar with foundational principles of anxiety treatment, and completely ill equipped to treat the effects of trauma. They don’t learn this in grad schools and some don’t pursue advanced training.
Tip # 3- Make Sure Your Anxiety Therapist Offers A Structured Treatment Approach.
Some clients that I’ve worked with spent years in unstructured therapy. They did not know what they were doing in therapy, and they did not know why. They did not have goals to which they, and the therapist were accountable. While they may have benefitted from therapy in certain ways, their anxiety did not get better. The therapist did not steer the therapy.
On some level, good therapy is a kind of education. If you signed up for a class, there would be a syllabus. You would have homework. Some class meetings would have a specific topic or exercise and you may spend several weeks on one thing. But you would have a road map for the semester, and you would have some idea of what you would learn.
The same is true if you are working with a qualified anxiety therapist. Your therapeutic work will be structured, and you will be clear on the rationale.
Bonus Tip # 4 Learn To Regulate Your Anxiety, And Also Get To The Roots.
Generally most clients benefit from working with an anxiety therapist who helps them achieve two main goals. The first essential goal is learning to regulate your anxiety. You must learn effective tools to calm yourself enough to sort things out. I call this “getting into the zone”. This requires training, practice and skills building.
In order to fully resolve your anxiety, you will probably need to get to it’s roots. Anxiety doesn’t just happen for no reason. It has function and a purpose. But because it’s often a deeply engrained body/mind habit we are often out of touch with it’s foundational. A skilled anxiety therapist will be able to guide you in the process of getting to the core memories and beliefs that fuel your anxiety-and healing them.
Here is something else I’ve noticed; when clients don’t get to the roots of their anxiety, they get stuck in a lifelong struggle of managing it instead. While there is nothing wrong with being able to cope better, wouldn’t it be great to have your anxiety not really be any issue at all? That’s possible.
If you would like to learn more about how I help clients end the struggle with anxiety, click here.