Counseling anxiety can involve a number of tools, and I am speaking from a utilitarian view.
I want to do what works with my clients who are experiencing anxiety.
Counseling anxiety can involve a couple of interventions, involving both thinking and breathing skills.
I remember back to my early days in the addictions field, working with folks who were experiencing anxiety about staying alive, job loss, arrests, DUI's, divorces, legal involvement, health, the future, custody issues, income, living arrangements, and most anything else one could imagine being involved in a very basic, fundamental lifestyle change.
We used some of the tools emerging from basic research in the addictions field then, and we relied heavily on the 12 Steps of AA.
One of the Steps of AA, the 11th step, is a call to do daily prayer and meditation for a sense of your higher power's will for you, and that was my first exposure to the concept of meditation. Much to my surprise, living in middle America, with its focus on consumption and TV, (mid-60's), that meditation could be studied, learned, and practiced.
The Big Book of AA, in its Promises, says that we can have an end to fear about things financial, for example, as the result of regular practice of the Steps.
The one thing that was never clear to me in the early days of my addictions work was that I need to steer my thinking, if you will, like I steer my car, with lots of attention to changing traffic (life) variables and keep the car (thinking, breathing) on the road by attending to the variables in brief increments.
Counseling anxiety then becomes, like recovery work, a very frequent adjustment of thinking, breathing, and activity, so you may call it a lifestyle.
And since that time, there have been some medical advances which can help in the brain chemistry of anxiety.
The first school of thinking that I found which had some applicability to counseling anxiety was the Stoic philosophy, which began my process of learning how to manage my thinking.
And we all knew of but had little experience with things like Zen meditation, or Buddhist meditation, or Yoga.
Then suddenly tools like Transcendental Meditation became well known, in this case, because the Beatle's were advocates, and the study of alpha brainwave biofeedback began, and the study of brainwave biofeedback, especially alpha/theta has some real important applications for alcoholism and anxiety.
Somewhere not too many years ago, someone began to study heart rate variability biofeedback, and a boat load of very beneficial counseling anxiety information has emerged from that research.
For example, no one knew that the heart regulated its own beat, or that the heart had a sophisticated nervous system of its own, which passed a tremendous amount of information to the brain about the hormonal state of the body it was in, or that the heart's own nervous system could learn and make decisions.
Heart rate variability biofeedback has got to be an important part of any counseling anxiety intervention because it combines the thinking tools of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or Cognitive Behavior Therapy with the meditative breathing skills with computer based feedback, so the skill is learned in short order.
Once the biofeedback learning has happened, an individual can cue it on demand, when anxiety is felt.
Thoughts are changed, attention is given to the area of the body around the heart, affiliation and cooperation are felt rather than fear, and your hormonal bath returns to DHEA rather than adrenalin and cortisol.
In fact, because the physiology resulting from heart rate variability biofeedback is learned, one can cue it on demand, just because one likes to feel good rather than anxious.
And there are some real advantages for your thinking if you can think from a place of relaxation.
Turns out the higher perceptual centers of the brain are opened when we are relaxed, generating a flow of potential solutions.
Ever heard of neurogenesis? Neurogenesis is a term used to describe a newly discovered capacity of the human brain. We grow new brain cells and if those new neurons are not drowned in stress hormones, we can expect those new neurons to help in the hippocampus area of the brain, a very important part of your brain's memory apparatus. Just one more reason to regulate your anxiety heart beat by heart beat.
So counseling anxiety for me will involve heart rate variability biofeedback.
Clients are usually quite amazed and gratified to see their increasing mastery over the inside of their body, and that could be the most important aspect of all of our work, that client self-efficacy.
I have even used Heartmath with couples to get a clearer picture of the heart beat of the relationship. Once couples get it that there is a literal and metaphorical heart beat to the relationship which needs to be attended to heart beat by heart beat, problem solving can become easier, because folk are working from an affiliative and cooperative heart beat.
So I guess we should go ahead and settle in to a heart beat of contentment now. Enjoy.
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