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  • Writer's pictureMike Chang

Overcoming Anxiety Through Individual Therapy

Updated: Jan 16

Conquering Your Anxiety

Overcoming Anxiety Through Individual Therapy


In the fast-paced world we inhabit, anxiety has become an unwelcome companion for many. The constant demands of life and external pressures can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and emotionally strained. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million Americans struggle with anxiety. This makes it the most common mental health challenge that the country faces.


Anxiety is treatable, however, and there are various types of therapy for anxiety that can be used to manage and treat this condition. However, anxiety therapy may not be as simple as finding just any therapy or mental health specialist. Instead, you will need to discover the type of treatment that works best for you. The good news is that relief is within reach through individual counselling. This article explores the transformative strategies employed in individual therapy that empower individuals to overcome anxiety and regain control of their lives.


Anxiety Disorders


Separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by heightened anxiety levels, fear, and distress around parting with someone, such as a parent or other attachment figure.

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, often includes fear surrounding social situations where one could be judged, criticized, or rejected by others.

Specific phobias

Phobias are often defined by extreme fear around an object, location, situation, or type of person. The American Psychiatric Association lists spiders, needles, snakes, heights, social situations, and public spaces as a few examples.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks and avoidance of situations in which a sudden panic attack may occur.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is often defined as persistent worry about everyday activities, like school, work, finances, and health, that interferes with daily functioning.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder often involves persistent obsessions and compulsions driven by fear or worry.


People with anxiety disorders may experience symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, muscle aches, sleep disturbances, or struggles with controlling emotions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) sets guidelines for what generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions are in order to appropriately diagnose them.


Anxiety disorders can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. Other disorders may be linked to anxiety disorders, such as borderline personality disorder. Therefore, treating anxiety disorders may involve addressing underlying conditions as well.


Symptoms of an anxiety disorder

People with anxiety disorders may experience symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, muscle aches, sleep disturbances, or struggles with controlling emotions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) sets guidelines for what generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions are in order to appropriately diagnose them.


Anxiety disorders can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. Other psychiatric disorders may be linked to anxiety disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, which can make anxiety worse. Therefore, treating anxiety disorders may involve addressing underlying conditions as part of the treatment plan.


Understanding the Role of Individual Counselling

Individual counselling: A Personalized Approach to Healing

Individual counselling, often called therapy or psychotherapy, is a tailored and confidential process where individuals work one-on-one with a qualified therapist. The primary goal is to explore feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, fostering self-awareness and promoting positive change. In the context of anxiety, individual counselling offers a safe space for individuals to delve into the root causes of their anxiety and develop coping mechanisms.


Types of therapy for treating Anxiety


Does anxiety therapy work? The National Institute of Mental Health describes many counseling options available to treat anxiety disorders and anxiety symptoms. The goal of the different therapeutic techniques may be to reduce anxiety, help clients better understand their behavior, and learn ways to cope with anxious feelings, fears, or thoughts. Below are a few common treatment options and forms of psychotherapy used for anxiety.


1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Rewiring Negative Thought Patterns

CBT is a widely acclaimed therapeutic approach in treating anxiety. This evidence-based technique identifies and challenges negative thought patterns, replacing them with healthier, more constructive ones. In the realm of individual counselling, CBT empowers individuals to recognize distorted thinking, fostering a more realistic and positive mindset. By addressing the core beliefs that fuel anxiety, CBT provides practical tools for managing and overcoming anxious thoughts.


2. Exposure response and prevention (ERP)

Exposure therapy is an offshoot of cognitive-behavioral therapy commonly used when treating phobias, social anxiety disorder, OCD, or PTSD. During the session, a client may be exposed to a distressing or fear-evoking situation, item, or stimulus. For example, someone with social anxiety may be exposed to fearful social situations, whereas someone with a phobia may be exposed to the object of their fear. It may be important to work with a professional who knows how to use this type of behavioral technique to get started. They can help you outline a list of your triggers and work with you on treating your least scary to most scary fears. 


By evoking these anxiety-provoking thoughts in a controlled environment, coping skills can be developed. As you begin exposing yourself to stressful stimuli, the triggers may lose power over you or feel less scary. This may also alleviate muscle tension by teaching relaxation techniques and promoting progressive muscle relaxation to overcome anxiety symptoms. Studies have found that exposure therapy is effective at reducing anxiety symptoms in people with OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and other mental health conditions. 


3. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy examines effective ways for people to control their emotions. This is often conducted in an individual, family, or group setting and includes modules such as distress tolerance, emotional control, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness. 


4. Acceptance and commitment

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of CBT that focuses on mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based action to help individuals manage anxiety. ACT helps individuals develop psychological flexibility by learning to accept uncomfortable or negative thoughts and feelings and take action despite those feelings. 

This approach emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment and developing a more flexible relationship with thoughts and emotions. ACT has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms and improving overall mental well-being.


5. Systematic desensitization

Systematic desensitization involves teaching individuals relaxation techniques and gradually exposing them to anxiety-provoking situations. The aim is to reduce the individual's anxiety response over time.


6. Interpersonal psychotherapy

Interpersonal therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills to relieve anxiety symptoms. This approach aims to address interpersonal issues and conflicts that may contribute to anxiety disorders. Individuals can learn to communicate more effectively, develop problem-solving skills, and build supportive relationships.


There have been several studies and clinical trials conducted to determine the effectiveness of these approaches for treating anxiety disorders. Randomized controlled trials have shown that CBT, exposure therapy, and commitment therapy can be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. These therapies can also be used to treat stress-related disorders. If designed, a mental health professional may use a combination of complementary therapies in order to treat anxiety.


Alternative options

Many people find relief from anxiety with alternative therapies. Alternative methods like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, journaling, deep breathing exercises, and aromatherapy may be beneficial. Animal-assisted therapy is another form of alternative treatment in which you can connect with animals to manage anxiety symptoms. 


Self-care may include caring for your mental and physical health and engaging in healthy behaviors like eating healthy, getting enough rest, and setting time for your hobbies. You can also talk to your doctor about support groups that might be effective for specific anxiety disorders. By working with a support group, you could build relationships with others experiencing similar symptoms and learn new coping strategies that may help. (Betterhelp)


1. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Cultivating Inner Calm

Incorporating mindfulness practices into individual therapy can be instrumental in managing anxiety. Techniques such as breathing exercise, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation help individuals stay present and cultivate a sense of inner calm. By fostering mindfulness, individuals can detach from anxious thoughts, allowing for a more centered and composed approach to life’s challenges.


2. Goal Setting and Empowerment Strategies: Taking Charge of One’s Narrative

Individual counselling empowers individuals to set realistic goals and work towards achieving them. Breaking down larger objectives into manageable steps allows for a sense of accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and diminishing anxiety. Therapists collaborate with individuals to develop personalized empowerment strategies, fostering a proactive mindset that can counteract the paralyzing effects of anxiety.


The Importance of Seeking Professional Guidance

Qualified Therapists: Navigating the Path to Empowerment

While self-help resources can provide valuable insights, the guidance of a qualified therapist is irreplaceable in the journey to overcoming anxiety. Therapists bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, tailoring their approach to the unique needs of each individual. The empathetic and non-judgmental environment of individual counselling promotes trust, allowing individuals to explore their anxieties openly and work towards sustainable solutions.

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