Anxiety Counseling

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What are common symptoms of anxiety?

Signs that you may need to seek a therapist:

  • Anxiety interferes with daily life – making it hard to function in relationships, work, or school.
  • Worrying about worry.
  • Physical symptoms appear (sweaty palms, heart racing, chest pain, etc).
  • Lost interest in activities you usually enjoy (this is also a symptom of depression)
  • Apathy (also a symptom of depression).
  • Muscle tension
  • Irrational fear

Frequently Asked Questions About Anxiety Counseling

How do you know when you need therapy for anxiety?

If you experience any of the symptoms above for more than two weeks, it may be wise to seek therapy.

If the above symptoms impair your functioning at work or school, or in important relationships, it may be wise to seek therapy.

Does counseling really work for anxiety?

Yes, counseling has been shown to be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders.

The basic tasks of a counselor for any mental health challenges are assessment or testing, diagnosis or labeling, and treatment.

Assessment for anxiety is done partly by asking a series of conversational questions about your experiences and the story that brings you to us for help. Testing may include brief measures like our Personal Challenges Survey (PCS), which takes about 10 minutes to complete. or more in-depth measures like the David Burns EASY.

Diagnosis for anxiety involves the selection of which anxiety label to use. There are actually several to pick from in the DSM. After the intake session and getting any tests back, your counselor will know which one to use.

Regardless of the theory applied by an individual counselor, the tools of anxiety counseling boil down to three categories:

  1. Reactive tools that help you manage spikes of anxiety at the moment.
  2. Proactive tools that help you prevent anxiety from spiking.
  3. Healing tools that help address underlying causes of anxiety.

A few tools from each category are described below. Some people are able to improve just by reading about new tools and starting to use them right away. Other people benefit from having a counselor support them in making tweaks and adjustments that make the tools unique to each individual.

Types of Anxiety Disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little to nothing to provoke it.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

Separation Anxiety Disorder: Characterized by excessive distress or worry about being away from home or a loved one. Thought patterns include constantly worrying if a loved one will be lost due to an illness or disaster.

Panic Disorder: Characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. Some physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.

Older versions of the DSM also included OCD and PTSD as anxiety disorders. These disorders are in their own categories in the current DSM.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts or repetitive behaviors. This may look like constantly washing hands, checking, or cleaning.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Can develop after exposure to a terrifying event in which physical harm occurred or was threatened.

Reactive Tools (How to Calm Anxiety Fast)

Deep Breathing

Take long, slow, deep breaths. 6-seconds in and 6-seconds out. You can also modify this into “box breathing” if you want by holding your breath for 2-3 seconds after each inhale and/or exhale.


This is easiest if you are sitting, and already using deep breathing (6 seconds in and out as described above). Then follow these steps:

  1. On an inhale, press your feet into the floor as hard as you can without moving your chair. You should feel the tension in your hips, quads, and calf muscles.
  2. On the following exhale, relax.
  3. One full breath in and out.
  4. On the next inhale, pull your feet toward your chair. You should feel the tension mostly in your hamstrings.
  5. On the following exhale, relax.
  6. One full breath in and out.
  7. Interlock your fingers.
  8. On the next inhale, press your hands against each other as hard as you can. You should feel the tension in your chest and biceps.
  9. On the following exhale, relax.
  10. One full breath in and out.
  11. On the next inhale, keeping your fingers interlocked, pull your hands against each other as hard as you can. You should feel the tension in your back, shoulders, and triceps.
  12. On the following exhale, relax.
  13. One full breath in and out.
  14. On the next inhale, shrug your shoulders to your ears as tight as you can.
  15. On the following exhale, relax.
  16. One full breath in and out.
  17. [This is the weirdest one, but the most effective.] On the next inhale, clench the muscles in your groin as if you need to stop peeing.
  18. On the following exhale, relax.

The groin or pelvic floor muscles are a “control” muscle group. If they’re tense, then other muscles in the body will be tense. If they are relaxed, most of the other muscles in the body will be relaxed.

The 3×3 Rule for Anxiety

  • Will this matter in 3 weeks?
  • Will this matter in 3 months?
  • Will this matter in 3 years?

The 3×3 Grounding Rod

  • Name 3 things you can see
  • Name 3 things you can hear
  • Name 3 things you can touch

Rescue medications

Your doctor, a psychiatrist, or a psychiatric nurse practitioner may prescribe anti-anxiety medications that help to manage anxiety spikes at the moment.


Some people benefit a lot from a guided meditation or journaling app such as Abide, Headspace, Calm, or MetaFi. These tools can fit into either the reactive or proactive category, depending on how often you use them and when you use them.

Proactive Tools (How to Prevent Anxiety Long Term)

This is where we usually recommend you start. Many people want to start with reactive tools. It is a bit of a chicken and egg issue – which one comes first. We recommend starting with proactive tools because once proactive tools are in regular use, the reactive tools will all be more effective.

For our list of recommended proactive tools for anxiety, check out our article 9 things to try to improve your mood (the same proactive tools work for depression, too).

What is the best therapy for fear or anxiety?

This is a bit paradoxical. All models of therapy that treat anxiety are equally good and equally bad.

No matter what any therapist, expert, or coach tells you, all models have equal potential to be effective.

This is called the “common factors” perspective. It comes from research that indicates that the largest factor in therapy is the clinical alliance. Basically, do you and your counselor “click?” Depending on which study you read, the clinical alliance is between 60% and 80% of the effect of therapy.

The next largest factor is life-context or system factors. Basically, how effective are you at communicating your needs, wants, and fears to your friends, family, and community? Anxiety counseling can help you improve in this area – as long as you click well with your counselor.

The system factors also ask the question: how well do your friends, family, and community support you? Anxiety counseling can help you decide whether you need to change your setting in order to find more supportive people. Depending on which study you read, system factors are between 10% and 30% of the effect of therapy.

The smallest factor is the specific model or style of therapy being used in treatment. Depending on the study, the model of therapy may account for as little as 5% of the effect of therapy, and no more than 20%

    Why Our Approach Works

    Our approach to counseling integrates the best research with the best practices in a clear way. (Often, you get either the best practices or the best research, rarely both).

      Thorough Intake Assessment

      You are a unique individual, not a formula. You are also not the first, only, or last person with your experiences and emotions. We integrate your story with your survey responses to get the most accurate diagnosis possible.

      A Clear Plan, Personally Applied

      We know what research says works to help people get better. We also know where to adjust the plan for personal fit and the best long-term results.

      Outcome Tracking (optional, but highly recommended)

      Tracking the results from your efforts helps you feel better, faster. We value your healing over our revenue. We want you out there in the world making your mark, not stuck with us forever.

      Next Steps

      If you're ready, you can get started with counseling at Restored Life. Or, if you're not sure whether you need counseling, take the free survey to screen for the most common mental health challenges that people face.
      Get StartedTake The Free Survey

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