Anxiety counseling is doable. There are a number of components to include in anxiety counseling, all of which would work with the three things we can manage in our lives; our thinking, our feelings, and our behavior.
I like to start with Heartmath or heart rate variability biofeedback because it is easy to learn and provides a significant success for folks to hang their hat on. Heartmath is learned and non-invasive, and once learned can be recalled on any given heart beat.
Heartmath also introduces folks to two of the concepts which have proven to be helpful in anxiety counseling, which are mindfulness and switching the focus from the external to the internal, or changing the thought to change the feeling, a key aspect of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.
The use of the Heartmath tool downloaded to a computer shows the client, who is hooked up to the computer by either an ear clip or finger clip, which reads the pulse rate, how fast their body changes physiology, in this case time between heart beats, in response to a change in thinking.
With a bit of practice using the Coach provided in the Heartmath program, you can learn to breath and think in ways that allow you to sustain a coherent heart rate for as long as 20 minutes at varying levels of challenge.
A coherent heart rate feels wonderful, and has a tremendous impact on the brain, actually opening the higher perceptual centers for brain storming.
It has been my experience that clients will challenge the machine with negative thoughts. Without fail, they are surprised to discover how fast the change in thinking is reflected in their heart rate variability as shown on the computer screen, even though they are still sitting quietly in my chair.
Once an individual is successful with Heartmath, anxiety counseling can move ahead rapidly because the client has seen and experienced both the coherent and incoherent aspects of their physiology subsequent to a thought.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, nervousness or unease.
Anxiety -- often also referred to as “stress” -- is a normal part of life. Stress or anxiety can be helpful as a way of alerting us to pay attention to particular situations.
Different kinds of anxiety:
* Generalized anxiety is excessive, ongoing worry that is unrelated to a particular event or situation.
* A panic attack is an experience of extreme anxiety, often accompanied by symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, dizziness, shaking, light-headedness, tightness in the chest and fear of losing control.
* Social phobia is a disproportionate anxiety about interactions with other people. Often it is characterized by a fear of being embarrassed or humiliated while in social situations.
* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an ongoing psychological reaction to an extremely frightening or life-threatening event, such as experiencing or seeing an accident; military combat; experiencing a natural disaster; being the victim of rape, assault or robbery; or enduring physical, sexual or emotional abuse. PTSD symptoms may include re-experiencing the stressful event through flashbacks and recurrent dreams, avoiding reminders of the event, insomnia, emotional numbness, hypervigilance, and being easily startled or frightened.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Many therapists use a combination of cognitive and behavior therapies, often referred to as CBT. In this type of therapy, which is a short-term form of psychotherapy, the patient is actively involved in his or her own recovery, has a sense of control, and learns skills that are useful throughout life. CBT focuses on identifying, understanding, and modifying thinking and behavior patterns. When a person changes thinking and behavior, emotional changes usually follow. Because CBT teaches skills for handling anxiety, patients who learn and practice the skills can use them when needed.
Techniques for relaxing help people develop the ability to cope more effectively with the stresses and physical symptoms that contribute to anxiety. Common techniques are breathing retraining and exercise. See above for Heartmath.
Medicines can be very useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and are often used in conjunction with one or more therapies above. Sometimes antidepressants or anxiolytics (antianxiety medications) are prescribed to alleviate severe symptoms so that other forms of therapy can be effective. Depending on the person, medication may be either a short-term or long-term treatment option.
Attentional Skills for Anxiety Counseling
Would you like to increase your attentional skills, short term memory, and IQ all in one fell swoop?
I have had some clients rave about one of the commercially available brain fitness programs called Mind Sparke Brain Fitness Pro because it has helped them get another picture of their attentional skills while they are challenged by what is called the dual n back task.
Mind Sparke asks you to remember both audio and visual tasks in short term memory and match those cues to a trial which will happen one or two or more trials ahead.
As folks make progress on that skill, their ability to identify automatic anxiety producing thoughts almost as they happen is increased, so the ruminations and anxiety feelings are short circuited.
Here is a link to explore, and there are children's versions. This program is based on research from the PNAS study.
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