In its most griping sense, anxiety can often feel like imminent danger or a threat to a your emotional, physical or spiritual well-being. This can stem from experiences such as seemingly “out of the blue” panic, as well as traumatic events, or rapid life adjustments. In more benign or prolonged ways, anxiety can also manifest as “bittersweet”, or gnawing awareness of life’s fleeting nature. This can relate to family changes, work transitions, or even new relationship circumstances. To be sure, whatever symptoms of anxiety one has, they can feel halting, paralyzing, and emotionally devastating.
When beginning the therapy process for anxiety treatment, it is important to understand both recent life events and current stressors, as well as old family patterns, or early or repeated traumas. This information builds a baseline for us to begin understanding the best anxiety treatment for you. It is vital for you to feel that we develop a plan based on what aligns best with your life values, your long term goals, and your sense of self.
A few meaningful and evidence-based approaches that I use in my practice include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). CBT is a type of an evidence based therapy and considered a robust tool for changing errors in thinking. It consists of helping clients understand the patterns of thought (sometimes termed “maladaptive thoughts” or “cognitive distortions”) that perpetuate anxiety, worry and panic. At the same time, it allows clients to practice new behavioral responses such as reframing (using more realistic thinking) and increasing their flexibility (openness to new, life-giving choices). ACT, somewhat similar to CBT, is an excellent tool for clinical depression, but also includes a deeper dive into client’s value system and finding personal meaning in their daily choices and comittments. In this way, it provides clarity and motivation on doing things from a place of self-honor and personal mission. Finally, some clients who experience more acute and pronounced anxiety, perhaps due to complex trauma or abuse, may need EMDR therapy. EMDR therapy works at both cognitive and physical levels (both self concept and identification of bodily/somatic experiences). As the body stores trauma for long periods after traumatic events happen, EMDR can assist in deeply working through these when they show up as anxiety disorders like post traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or clinical depression.
The most important thing to remember is that real solutions exist in treatment for positive coping. The small, but formidable, steps that all of these therapies provide (from CBT to EMDR), can assist clients in a reduction in anxiety, and increasing experiences of feeling “at ease”, and firmly planted and capable. The final goal is that a new relationship with oneself is born, based on self compassion, and improved emotional functioning in day to day life can gradually return.