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Psychotherapy for Anxiety

By Deanne Repich

CBT, STDT, Gestalt - what does it all mean? Here's a layman's cheat sheet for several types of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders...

Two of the most effective forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders are behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy helps you to unlearn self-defeating patterns and habits in your day-to-day actions. It teaches you new, healthy skills and ways of reacting to situations that trigger anxiety. Behavioral therapy is action based. It assumes that if you can learn to change your behavior, then your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes will change too. Behavioral strategies may include progressive muscle relaxation techniques, gradual exposure to the anxiety trigger, changing breathing patterns, positive and negative reinforcement, and learning empowering ways of relating to others.

Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive therapy is based on the belief that faulty thinking patterns and belief systems can cause psychological problems. It assumes that by changing self-defeating thought patterns and transforming them into more successful belief systems you can improve your mental and emotional health. The main focus of cognitive therapy is to change emotions and behavior by changing our self-defeating thoughts, such as all or nothing beliefs, negative assumptions, labeling, and so on.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a combination approach that uses both cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive and behavioral therapies compliment each other. When used together, they stimulate areas of growth that are difficult to achieve using one or the other by itself. Cognitive-behavioral therapy addresses both the thoughts and behaviors that promote and perpetuate anxiety.

Psychoanalytic Therapy
Psychoanalytic therapy helps bring unconscious thoughts, feelings, motivations, and experiences into the conscious mind. It assumes that behavior is determined by unconscious motivations, drives, and instincts from the first few years of life. This "classic" psychoanalysis is an intensive and long-term process of bringing these unconscious feelings to the surface. Through this process the therapist helps you to find patterns in your thoughts and behaviors and interpret how they might relate to your current problems.

Gestalt Therapy
Gestalt therapy uses techniques such as role-playing and confrontation that help increase awareness of feelings. These techniques are designed to strengthen your ability to face current situations and problems and realize the power you hold to change yourself. You and the therapist work together to help you understand yourself by experiencing the present together rather than talking about past situations or events.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a tool for helping people who suffer from trauma, post traumatic stress, anxiety, panic, and grief. In its simplest form EMDR involves visualizing an image (pictures, feelings, sounds) of "the problem," while watching the therapist's systematic hand or finger movements. The goal of EMDR is to assist the brain in releasing the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system and help it process the traumatic experience successfully. EMDR is designed not to be a complete solution in and of itself, but rather to be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), can be described as psychological acupressure. It combines ideas from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Applied Kinesiology, the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement. EFT involves a gentle tapping sequence in which you touch specific energy points in the body to clear emotional charges, allowing you to release many types of emotional blocks. Like EMDR, this technique is typically designed to be part of a comprehensive treatment plan, rather than a stand-alone solution.

Short-Term Dynamic Therapy (STDT)
Short-Term Dynamic Therapy, or STDT, uses the same basic principles as psychoanalytic therapy. However, it is practiced differently and has different goals. The goal of STDT is to be a short-term therapy to help you gain insight into how life events, relationship dynamics, and ongoing situations contribute to your anxiety. Because the therapist takes a more active role in this type of therapy, trust is especially important. Very early in the treatment the therapist identifies your defenses and resistances. Then he/she interprets them to help you re-experience painful events and express unresolved emotions.

Art Therapy/Music Therapy/Play Therapy
These "creative" therapies use art, music, and play as ways to express deep feelings and understand yourself better. Each of these therapies is based on the idea that the right (creative) hemisphere of the brain is helpful in identifying what's going on emotionally and encouraging the healing process. Play therapy is used most often with children.

The Eclectic Approach
Most therapists are flexible, adjusting the types of techniques and therapies used to fit your unique needs. This is called an "eclectic approach." The eclectic approach incorporates elements of several types of therapy to create the most effective and successful treatment plan for you. Most therapists realize that what's most important is not the therapist's orientation or technique, but whether or not the therapy "clicks" for you at a gut level and enables positive change.

Personal experience and research have shown me that each type of therapy has something to offer. In reality each individual's needs are usually much too complex for any one technique to be used in isolation. That's why our Conquer Anxiety Success Program uses an eclectic approach. Our course consists mainly of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques - combined with elements of Gestalt therapy, psychoanalytic therapy, Short-Term Dynamic Therapy (STDT), the creative therapies, and several alternative therapies. We believe this eclectic approach enables positive change by offering you a comprehensive set of tools to guide you in making the leap from intellectual understanding to personal insight and power.

Deanne Repich is the Director of the National Institute of Anxiety and Stress, Inc., a former anxiety sufferer, and creator of the "Conquer Your Anxiety Success Program." The course is a 'take-action' self-study program that guides you step by step through over seventy practical strategies for overcoming anxiety.

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