Seeking Professional Help for Anxiety

Many readers may, by this point, feel confident about putting into practice the effective techniques we have described for handling anxiety, in its variety of forms. But not all of us feel comfortable doing it by ourselves. When we are in the grip of anxiety, we can sometimes get tunnel vision leaving us capable of focusing on little other than our own narrow problem writ large, so we need someone else with the skills to help us put things back into proper perspective and to offer the reframes that open us up to the possibility of seeing our circumstances in a different way.

Also, as we have mentioned already, if you are still being affected by high emotional arousal due to a past traumatic event, this needs to be resolved, so that the event can be processed as a normal memory, without the attendant, incapacitating emotion. This is best done by a therapist who is proficient in the rewind technique.

Choosing a therapist is an extremely important step. There are well over 400 schools of therapy which can make it extremely difficult to know where to start. How could there be so many permutations and practices within one professional discipline! It does seem absurd, after all there would never be that many ways to treat a physical illness. Such disparity, and so little shared common ground between the approaches to psychotherapy, mean that people in the field are themselves confused about what really works.

For instance, behavioural therapists concentrate on helping people to change their behaviour.

Cognitive therapists concentrate on the idea that changing the way anxious people think about things will have the effect of making them change their behaviour.

In person-centred therapy (the type most commonly on offer from counsellors in GP surgeries) the belief is that the solution lies hidden somewhere inside the suffering individual; all the therapist has to do (the theory goes) is respectfully keep listening to the person talk, with a few prods in particular directions here and there, and they'll sort it all out for themselves.

Psychodynamic therapies operate from the belief that you have to dig up all past pains and insecurities and major disappointments to understand and overcome anxiety disorders. These are piecemeal approaches, and some, albeit unwittingly, may do more harm than good.

Many of these different schools of therapy have got hold of a part of the truth but unfortunately they stick to that one part and hone it, to the exclusion of everything else. This tends to unbalance the work of therapists, however well-meaning, who work from within such limited models. Of course, it is good to set people tasks to help them change problem behaviours or to help people become aware of and question negative thinking, or to listen to people with empathy, but none of these approaches is sufficient on its own.

What is ideal, is an approach to psychotherapy and counselling that is not piecemeal, but is an holistic approach with one strong over-arching idea at its core: we cannot be anxious or depressed or phobic or in the grip of any other form of mental ill-health if our needs are being fully met and we are making proper use of our innate resources. This method is taught by some therapists who don't diagnose deficiencies in a person but rather the deficiencies in their lives or circumstances that prevent them from meeting their essential needs and/or using their innate guidance system effectively to meet those needs. Having established what is required, they then use a variety of tried and tested techniques to help people achieve that end, as quickly as possible. Unlike so many other schools of psychotherapy, they don't have one 'model' that they stick to like limpets and which they force everyone that comes to see us to fit. They work with what we see and learn from the individual in front of them.