Therapy is a powerful tool in managing your anxiety symptoms — but what type of therapy is right for you?
If you live with anxiety, you might be used to symptoms that interfere with your daily life. You might see danger around every corner, question your relationships, or even recognize only the worst of yourself in many situations.
It’s likely that if you have an anxiety disorder, it might be making your worst fears seem much more threatening than they actually are — but even if you’re well aware of this, it can be difficult to shed those worries.
That’s where therapy can come in. If you choose to seek therapeutic support for your anxiety, you’ll find there are many approaches to managing it. Some focus on your thought patterns, and others might place more emphasis on your relationships.
Depending on the roots and sources of your anxiety, different types of therapy could offer more benefits. You might also choose a type of therapy based on what’s available in your area and what therapist seems like a good match for you on a personal level.
If you’ve never talked with a therapist before, you might feel anxious about taking that step. And it’s common to experience more anxiety around things that aren’t familiar to us.
Reading up on what kind of therapy you might be interested in beforehand is one way to start familiarizing yourself with how therapy could add to your anxiety-managing toolkit.
One key tenet of CBT is a belief that psychological conditions (like anxiety) are based in part on thinking patterns and in part on learned behavior. So CBT aims to address and reframe thought patterns and provide you with tools to help you cope with anxiety when it flares up.
In CBT, you might learn to recognize patterns of distorted thinking and then reevaluate those thoughts. You might also practice confronting sources of anxiety, armed with relaxation and calming techniques.
Many studies also support the use of CBT in the treatment of a variety of anxiety disorders.
DBT, a specific type of CBT, was originally developed as a treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Since one of the main goals is to help the person in therapy change behavior patterns, it could also help if you experience anxiety.
DBT may be especially helpful for people with anxiety disorders who self-harm or who have coping habits that don’t serve them.
Treatment often includes teaching mindfulness and helping you live in the moment. It can also provide you with tools for dealing with distressing situations and improving your own emotional regulation.
ACT encourages you to accept thoughts and feelings as appropriate responses to your circumstances. In ACT, you may also learn skills to keep these thoughts and feelings from holding you back. This involves letting go of shame surrounding those feelings, while also equipping you with tools to overcome them.
Another therapy that stems from CBT,
If you have a phobia, exposure therapy could help. This form of behavioral therapy involves exposing people to their fears in increasing increments. For example, if you fear spiders, you might start by looking at pictures of spiders and working up to hold a spider.
The APA shares that exposure therapy has been scientifically vetted as a treatment option for:
Psychdodynamic therapy may last around 2 years, and it’s one of the oldest forms of modern therapy.
Sessions may focus on helping you work through a stalled stage of development. Research supports the effectiveness of online psychodynamic therapy for treating social anxiety disorder in particular.
As the name suggests, the goal of interpersonal therapy is to improve interpersonal relationships. You could consider this option if anxiety impacts your social functioning, such as living with social anxiety disorder.
- development of tools and strategies
- phasing out of therapy sessions
Also called rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), RET aims to help you identify, challenge, and replace self-defeating thoughts and feelings.
This is typically a short-term treatment, with completion occurring in as few as
- problem-solving skills
- cognitive restructuring
- coping techniques
Sometimes called tapping, EFT combines traditional therapy with alternative medicine philosophies. In EFT, you cultivate and learn techniques to use when experiencing emotional distress.
EFT typically takes place in five steps:
- identifying the issue
- evaluating the intensity at which the issue is felt
- establishing a mantra you can repeat when dealing with the issue
- learning the tapping sequence
- evaluating the intensity at which the issue is felt after tapping
Intending to reduce the impact of traumatic experiences, EMDR is typically a short-term treatment option. Sessions occur one to two times a week, generally lasting no more than 6 to 12 sessions.
These sessions involve sharing a memory of a traumatic event while the therapist directs your eye movements. The idea is that these eye movements allow you to reprocess and restore the memory of the trauma in a way that doesn’t continue to cause trauma symptoms. Some people describe this as taking the power out of the traumatic memory.
To understand schema therapy, it can help first to understand what a schema is: a maladaptive thought or behavioral pattern most often developed in response to unmet needs in childhood.
Schema therapy is an integrative treatment option that combines several therapeutic modalities with the ultimate aim of recognizing and addressing your own schemas. This can equip you with the skills to get your emotional needs met in constructive ways rather than living out patterns that don’t serve you.
If you’ve decided to pursue therapy for your anxiety, consulting with your care physician can be a good first step. They can help you to determine what type of therapy might best suit your needs and offer recommendations for therapists in your area who may be able to help.
Another option is to call your health insurance company and request a list of recommendations from them.
If those options aren’t available to you, or if you don’t feel a connection with the suggested therapists, you can try other ways of finding a referral, including:
- asking friends who they see
- turning to reliable online databases such as the American Psychological Association or the Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists
- checking with your human resources department at work to learn what mental health benefits you may have
- using our Therapist Finder
Maybe you’d like to connect with a therapist, but it’s not in your budget. Here are some tips on finding good low-cost and no-cost therapy options.
It can take courage to find therapy, especially when you live with anxiety, but it’s often a worthwhile step. Anxiety is a manageable condition, and it’s possible to gain relief from these symptoms.