In some cases, medications have a role in treating anxiety disorders. But for many, therapy—alone or in combination with medication—is the most effective treatment option. The reason is that therapy, unlike medication, gives you the tools to manage the anxiety yourself, now and in the future. Different therapeutic techniques have been developed to treat anxiety and have evolved over time from psychoanalytic approaches to the newest cognitive behavioral therapies. In this article, we shall discuss different types of therapy for anxiety and how they work.
If you live with anxiety, you might be used to symptoms that interfere with your daily life. You might see danger around every corner, question your relationships, or even recognize only the worst of yourself in many situations.
It’s likely that if you have an anxiety disorder, it might be making your worst fears seem much more threatening than they actually are — but even if you’re well aware of this, it can be difficult to shed those worries.
That’s where therapy can come in. If you choose to seek therapeutic support for your anxiety, you’ll find there are many approaches to managing it. Some focus on your thought patterns, and others might place more emphasis on your relationships.
Depending on the roots and sources of your anxiety, different types of therapy could offer more benefits. You might also choose a type of therapy based on what’s available in your area and what therapist seems like a good match for you on a personal level.
If you’ve never talked with a therapist before, you might feel anxious about taking that step. And it’s common to experience more anxiety around things that aren’t familiar to us.
Reading up on what kind of therapy you might be interested in beforehand is one way to start familiarizing yourself with how therapy could add to your anxiety-managing toolkit.
CBT is one of the most commonly used forms of therapy. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it can help treat many conditions, including:
One key tenet of CBT is the belief that psychological conditions (like anxiety) are based in part on thinking patterns and in part on learned behavior. So CBT aims to address and reframe thought patterns and provide you with tools to help you cope with anxiety when it flares up.
In CBT, you might learn to recognize patterns of distorted thinking and then reevaluate those thoughts. You might also practice confronting sources of anxiety, armed with relaxation and calming techniques.
Research has found CBT can be a successful treatment option for teens with social anxiety disorder, especially when started early.
Many studies also support the use of CBT in the treatment of a variety of anxiety disorders.
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Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
DBT, a specific type of CBT, was originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Since one of the main goals is to help the person in therapy change behavior patterns, it could also help if you experience anxiety.
DBT may be especially helpful for people with anxiety disorders who self-harm or who have coping habits that don’t serve them.
Treatment often includes teaching mindfulness and helping you live in the moment. It can also provide you with tools for dealing with distressing situations and improving your own emotional regulation.
ResearchTrusted Source has found DBT to be a successful treatment option for managing physical anxiety symptoms, even when compared to other options such as medication and other therapies.
Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT encourages you to accept thoughts and feelings as appropriate responses to your circumstances. In ACT, you may also learn skills to keep these thoughts and feelings from holding you back. This involves letting go of shame surrounding those feelings, while also equipping you with tools to overcome them.
Another therapy that stems from CBT, researchTrusted Source suggests ACT could help reduce your anxiety levels. It may be especially beneficial if you have test anxiety or social anxiety.
If you have a phobia, exposure therapy could help. This form of behavioral therapy involves exposing people to their fears in increasing increments. For example, if you fear spiders, you might start by looking at pictures of spiders and working up to hold a spider.
The APA shares that exposure therapy has been scientifically vetted as a treatment option for:
- panic disorders
- social anxiety disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
The goalTrusted Source of psychodynamic therapy is to address unconscious feelings and desires that may be at the root of your anxiety. You might work with a therapist to recognize and address things about yourself you might not be aware of currently. This awareness can then help you change behaviors that might have stemmed from these feelings.
Psychodynamic therapy may last around 2 years, and it’s one of the oldest forms of modern therapy.
Sessions may focus on helping you work through a stalled stage of development. Research supports the effectiveness of online psychodynamic therapy for treating social anxiety disorder in particular.
As the name suggests, the goal of interpersonal therapy is to improve interpersonal relationships. You could consider this option if anxiety impacts your social functioning, such as living with social anxiety disorder.
Treatment involves trusted Sources working with your therapist to develop a feeling of being seen, heard, and understood. Treatment is typically short-term and time-limited (roughly 12 to 16 weeks), taking place in three phases:
- development of tools and strategies
- phasing out of therapy sessions
ResearchersTrusted Source has recently begun studying the effectiveness of online interpersonal therapy for stress, anxiety, and depression, with promising results.
Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)
Also called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), RET aims to help you identify, challenge, and replace self-defeating thoughts and feelings.
This is typically a short-term treatment, with completion occurring in as few as five sessionsTrusted Source. These sessions consist of learning:
- problem-solving skills
- cognitive restructuring
- coping techniques
Over 50 years of researchTrusted Source has found REBT to be an effective treatment method for various mental health conditions, including anxiety. It has also been shown helpful for adolescents and youth.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)
Sometimes called tapping, EFT combines traditional therapy with alternative medicine philosophies. In EFT, you cultivate and learn techniques to use when experiencing emotional distress.
EFT typically takes place in five steps:
- identifying the issue
- evaluating the intensity at which the issue is felt
- establishing a mantra you can repeat when dealing with the issue
- learning the tapping sequence
- evaluating the intensity at which the issue is felt after tapping
Multiple studies have found a variety of physical and mental health benefits to EFT, including a 40% reduction in anxiety, according to some research trusted Sources.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Intending to reduce the impact of traumatic experiences, EMDR is typically a short-term treatment option. Sessions occur one to two times a week, generally lasting no more than 6 to 12 sessions.
These sessions involve sharing a memory of a traumatic event while the therapist directs your eye movements. The idea is that these eye movements allow you to reprocess and restore the memory of the trauma in a way that doesn’t continue to cause trauma symptoms. Some people describe this as taking the power out of the traumatic memory.
While initially developed for the treatment of PTSD, researchTrusted Source has found it to be an effective treatment option for any type of anxiety stemming from trauma.
To understand schema therapy, it can help first to understand what a schema is: a maladaptive thought or behavioral pattern most often developed in response to unmet needs in childhood.
Schema therapy is an integrative treatment option that combines several therapeutic modalities with the ultimate aim of recognizing and addressing your own schemas. This can equip you with the skills to get your emotional needs met in constructive ways rather than living out patterns that don’t serve you.
Originally designed by Trusted Source to treat personality disorders, schema therapy has shown Trusted Source efficacy in treating anxiety as well.
In summary, if you’ve decided to pursue therapy for your anxiety, consulting with your care physician can be a good first step. They can help you to determine what type of therapy might best suit your needs and offer recommendations for therapists in your area who may be able to help.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.