Therapy for Anxiety: How Does It Work?

Louis Laves-Webb

July 29, 2014

Most of us experience feelings of anxiety at some point in our lives. We may feel worried about a job interview, attending an event where we won’t know anyone, or getting lost on an upcoming trip. Occasional, mild anxiety is natural; but if your anxiety is severe, ongoing, and/or prevents you from fully engaging in life, it may be time to seek additional support.

It isn’t uncommon for people to seek counseling for anxiety. Furthermore, most people do find that they benefit from psychotherapy. However, some individuals hesitate to pursue counseling for their anxiety out of fear that they’ll be told their feelings aren’t real or that they are overreacting to the situation.

Competent counseling isn’t about telling a client to ignore his or her feelings because they are “wrong.” This approach can actually increase someone’s anxiety as well as induce shame. While it’s helpful to think about whether or not your anxiety may be causing you to jump to conclusions (i.e. assuming you will fail before you’ve tried something or being constantly afraid of getting hurt in situations where danger isn’t present), it can be upsetting to be told your anxiety is “all in your head,” since those feelings are very real to you in the moment you feel them.

Anxiety comes in many different forms including (but not limited to) social anxiety, general anxiety, phobias, PTSD, and panic disorders. The treatment approach taken may depend on what your anxiety looks like and how it is affecting your life.

Overcoming Anxiety Through Counseling

In therapy, you and your counselor work to create a safe space for you to explore your difficult emotions and examine where they may be rooted. Counseling isn’t about judging your anxiety, but about learning to better understand and manage it. There may be underlying causes to your emotions, and sometimes even just making those connections and identifying those feelings can help lessen your anxiety.

In beginning to closer examine your own feelings, you may discover that some of your thought processes are self-sabotaging or not completely realistic. For example, you may constantly worry that you are going to be fired from your job because you were let go from another position several years ago. Your fear may be so intense that you’ve recently lost the ability to concentrate on tasks and have missed deadlines, only further convincing you that you will be fired. You dread going to the office now because you are certain you will fail at everything.

In counseling, you may be asked to challenge some of these thoughts and fears. In the example above, you may ask yourself: is it realistic to be worried about getting fired if you were recently given positive feedback on several projects? Is it possible that your fear stems less from your current job performance, and more from your own self-doubt and remembering previous mistakes? What is within your control to change that can help you manage your stress?

You and your counselor might work to replace negative, self-defeating thoughts with more accurate ones. For instance, instead of assuming your boss will hate all your ideas, you might work on shifting your perception to instead think, “My boss may not love every project I pitch, but I am qualified and was hired for this position, which tells me they may value my ideas.” You might also choose to take positive steps for your mental health, like taking time to decompress after work, sticking to a routine that works for you, or honing a skill outside of your job that reminds you of your other talents.

One of the main objectives of anxiety counseling is equipping you with the tools to better manage your anxiety or take care of yourself in anxiety-inducing situations. This will look different for each client, but there is an approach that can work for everyone. You might also find that you aren’t alone in your feelings and that there are people you can turn to for support.

It’s okay to be nervous about beginning therapy for anxiety. However, if your anxiety is standing in the way of you leading a fulfilling life, it’s worth a try to see how you might benefit from counseling. You can alleviate some of the fear of uncertainty by asking your potential therapist questions about his/her practice and setting up an initial consultation to learn more.

If you are interested in anxiety counseling in the Austin area, call the office of Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates to set up an appointment today.

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