Types of Therapy for Anxiety - MindRx Group

Types of Therapy for Anxiety

Therapist and patient talking together, she is helping him to cope with a stressful situation
Published:  May 13, 2024

Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health conditions, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. While occasional anxiety is a normal, persistent and excessive worry, fear, or dread can significantly impair daily functioning and diminish your quality of life. Fortunately, there are various evidence-based therapies available to help you manage and overcome anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety is a widely recognized and effective treatment. This approach focuses on identifying and modifying the negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. Through CBT, you’ll learn to challenge irrational or distorted thoughts and develop coping strategies.

CBT typically involves the following components:

  • Psychoeducation: Understanding the nature of anxiety, its causes, and its effects.
  • Cognitive Restructuring: Identifying and reframing unhelpful thought patterns.
  • Behavioral Experiments: Testing the validity of anxious thoughts through real-life experiences.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Learning and practicing relaxation strategies to manage physical symptoms of anxiety.

CBT is a structured and time-limited therapy, usually lasting between 12 and 16 sessions. It emphasizes developing practical skills that you can apply in your daily life to manage anxiety effectively.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure Therapy for anxiety is a specific form of CBT that focuses on gradually exposing you to the situations, objects, or memories that trigger your anxiety. This approach is based on the principle of habituation, which means that repeated exposure to the feared stimuli will eventually reduce the anxiety response.

There are two main types of exposure therapy:

  • In Vivo Exposure: This involves directly confronting real-life situations or objects that provoke anxiety, such as public speaking, driving, or heights.
  • Imaginal Exposure: This involves vividly imagining and describing anxiety-provoking scenarios or memories in a safe and controlled environment.

Exposure therapy is typically conducted systematically and gradually, starting with less distressing situations and working up to more challenging ones. Your therapist will guide you through the process, providing support and helping you develop coping strategies to manage anxiety during exposure exercises.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for anxiety is a mindfulness-based therapy that aims to help you develop psychological flexibility and accept complex thoughts and emotions without judgment. Rather than attempting to eliminate anxiety, ACT encourages you to embrace it as a natural human experience and focus on living a meaningful, values-driven life.

The core principles of ACT include:

  • Acceptance: Embracing your thoughts and feelings without trying to change or control them.
  • Cognitive Defusion: Separating yourself from your thoughts and recognizing that they are not necessarily facts.
  • Being Present: Cultivating mindfulness and focusing on the present moment.
  • Self-as-Context: Recognizing that you are not your thoughts or emotions, but the observer of them.
  • Values-Based Living: Identifying and aligning your actions with personal values and life goals.

ACT incorporates mindfulness exercises, metaphors, and experiential activities to help you develop a more flexible and compassionate relationship with your anxiety. It encourages you to make room for uncomfortable emotions while pursuing meaningful life directions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive therapy originally developed for the treatment of borderline personality disorder but has also proven effective in managing anxiety disorders. DBT combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and dialectical philosophy.

The core components of DBT for anxiety include:

  • Mindfulness: Developing non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.
  • Distress Tolerance: Learning techniques to cope with intense emotions and difficult situations.
  • Emotion Regulation: Identifying and modifying unhelpful emotional responses.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Improving communication and assertiveness skills.

DBT emphasizes the balance between acceptance and change, encouraging you to accept the reality of your current situation while working towards positive change. It provides a structured framework and teaches specific skills to manage anxiety, regulate emotions, and improve interpersonal relationships.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for anxiety is a therapeutic approach particularly effective in treating trauma-related anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with bilateral stimulation, typically through eye movements or tapping.

During EMDR sessions, you’ll be guided to recall traumatic or distressing memories while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as tracking the therapist’s hand movements with your eyes or listening to alternating tones through headphones. This process is believed to facilitate the adaptive processing of traumatic memories and reduce the associated emotional distress.

EMDR typically involves the following phases:

  • History and Treatment Planning: Identifying the specific traumatic memories or experiences to target.
  • Preparation: Learning coping strategies and developing a safe place visualization.
  • Assessment: Evaluating the current level of distress associated with the traumatic memory.
  • Desensitization and Reprocessing: Engaging in bilateral stimulation while recalling the traumatic memory.
  • Installation: Reinforcing positive cognitions related to the traumatic experience.
  • Body Scan: Addressing any residual physical sensations or distress.
  • Closure: Debriefing and providing self-care instructions for the period between sessions.

EMDR is a relatively short-term therapy, with the number of sessions varying depending on the complexity and severity of the traumatic experiences being addressed.

Therapy for Anxiety at MindRx

Anxiety disorders can be debilitating, but with the right therapy and support, you can learn to manage and overcome your symptoms. Each type of therapy offers a unique approach and set of techniques to help you address the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of anxiety.

Remember, the effectiveness of therapy often depends on your commitment and active participation in the process. Be open to trying different approaches and work collaboratively with your therapist to find the best fit for your needs and goals.

MindRx provides in-person and online therapy for anxiety in Oregon and Washington. Our compassionate and experienced mental health providers are here to help you alleviate your anxiety symptoms. Contact us to learn more, or schedule an appointment today.