Anxiety is no fun, and anxiety counselling needs to be productive fast.
I see anxiety in my domestic violence education program most frequently related to end of relationship and custody issues, payment of fines and court costs, orders of protection, visitation, parenting, business, and even immigration issues.
We do not have a great deal of time in a court ordered program to explore existential or psychodynamic issues.
We need to get to tools and teach them so that clients can make use of them quickly and regularly. The sooner clients can get a sense that they can manage their feelings, the less likely they are to be violent as a way to feel relaxed, and we are relaxed after violence.
The tools that I use right out of the chute are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Heartmath, or heart rate variability biofeedback, which actually combines biofeedback and CBT.
Heartmath is a computerized tool that gives the client real time feedback about the coherence of their heart beat, actually the coherence of the time between heartbeats, and shows them with an image on a computer screen how quickly their thinking and breathing patterns impact that coherence.
Most folks are intrigued by the computerized process, and have a number of very quick insights about themselves and their physiology as they watch a Heartmath session unfold.
The Heartmath tool offers a 'coaching module' which helps folks get a sense of the thinking and breathing aspects of the heart rate variability training, and most clients notice quickly that following the coaching instructions leaves them feeling relaxed.
That is when I love to point out that nothing in the external world has changed, and that their good feelings are contingent only on their breathing and thinking. Most clients are pretty amazed by that.
The next thing to teach in the anxiety counselling process is that we need to learn to pay attention to the inside of ourselves very frequently, and I counsel people to learn how to pay attention to feelings and implement the heart rate variability biofeedback process on a schedule.
I suggest that relaxation, thoughts of gratitude, deep breathing, Heartmath, and any other healing tool that clients like should be done on a regular basis, perhaps every five minutes for two heart beats.
My point is that we routinely devote large blocks of time to worry and fear, why not give relaxation, contentment, gratitude, and laughter equal time?
And then I will point out that a heart beat by heart beat focus on feelings is actually appropriate because if our heart stops, we no longer have to worry about feelings anymore, right?
Most folks I say that to are struck by the phrase, and perhaps begin to look at why we look at time the way we do, but undoing old habits about negative thinking and feeling can take some time to extinguish, so having a regimented tool to use like Heartmath can be a wonderful resource in anxiety counselling
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Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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