Anxiety disorders are among some of the most common psychological disorders you’ll treat as a psychological therapist. They can be born from a variety of stimuli and take root to disrupt people’s lives in a myriad of ways, from the repressive constriction of obsessive-compulsive behavior to crippling phobias that may render the client agoraphobic. Luckily, CBT, cognitive-behavioral therapy, can be used to treat virtually any case of anxiety disorder you come across.
As you are probably already aware, scientific studies have shown that CBT is extremely effective in treating all forms of anxiety disorders because it combines cognitive and behavioral theories to treat both the underlying thought process and subconscious behavioral response to anxiety triggers that cause a particular disorder.
One of the most common issues that people with anxiety disorders experience is a string of negative thoughts that cause them to become worked up. CBT addresses this issue by challenging those negative thoughts and eventually replacing them with more realistic positive thoughts. This process is formally called “cognitive restructuring”, and it takes three simple steps to perform.
Step #1: Spot the negative thoughts that trigger anxiety.
Before you can start working towards changing your client’s train of thought during stressful situations, you have to first understand what their current train of thought is. What are they thinking that’s causing their distress?
Does the agoraphobe think spiders are going to rush him the second he steps out of the house? Does the socially awkward high school student think he’ll be laughed at the second he steps in front of class to deliver his oral report? As you know, you have to fully understand the problem before you can start working towards a solution.
Step #2: Challenge the client’s negative thought process.
As you have found, you don’t want to be overly directive, but you need to find a way to show your client that their thoughts are irrational and get them to start questioning the legitimacy of their anxiety-provoking logic. Their fears may even be justifiable, in which case, as you know, you need to show your client why their disabling anxiety-inducing reaction is still irrational even should the worst case scenario come to pass.
Step #3: Introduce your client to a more positive and realistic outlook.
Once you have the client questioning their own thought process it’s time to introduce them to a better one. Walk your client down a more realistic and positive path so that he or she can start acting in a more positive manner when faced with an anxiety-inducing situation.
Clearly this is just one way CBT can help your clients get control of their anxiety-inducing triggers and turn around their lives in ways they never thought they could before.