Anxiety is a common and potentially serious condition. It can serve positively as a motivator, but too much anxiety can result in indecision, panic attacks and psychological paralysis. Some of the common psychological symptoms of anxiety are excessive worry, sleeplessness, perfectionism, stage fright, brief memory loss, inability to concentrate and obsessiveness. Some common physical symptoms of anxiety include shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, sweating, tingling sensations and trembling.
The good news is that psychotherapy can often address and reduce anxiety. The simple action of speaking in a safe, non-judgmental environment with an experienced psychotherapist often reduces tension and provides meaningful insights into the causes of anxiety. Most importantly, speaking with a therapist can help explore and set up effective strategies to reduce anxiety.
Here are some easy common techniques to reduce anxiety:
- Often there are causes or common repeat “triggers” that start the anxiety….usually certain people, places or situations. In therapy you will identify these triggers and with the therapist work on a strategy to better manage or avoid them.
- Identity negative predictions that are not based on facts…..Identify with the therapist thoughts and predictions you make when you are anxious. Then see if there is a difference between the actual facts of the situation and the stories or narrative you tell yourself. Are you making predictions not yet true? Can you explore with the therapist what assumptions you are making that are not factual? Do these predictions and assumptions make you more anxious and get in the way of problem solving?
These strategies are usually easy to implement with an experienced therapist and can reduce anxiety in a relatively short period of time.
If you are considering psychotherapy here are some important questions to ask your therapist:
- Is psychotherapy necessary?
- How does psychological change happen?
- How can you help me?
- How long does individual therapy or couples therapy take to be effective?
If you are experiencing increasing or ongoing depression or anxiety, if you are having problems focusing, if you are not functioning well socially or occupationally, or if you are feeling continually frustrated in your life, then it can be very helpful to consider psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy uses a variety of different techniques, strategies and theories, depending on the issues you want to focus on.
Short term psychotherapy emphasizes immediate problem solving. The client and therapist set short term action goals to resolve concrete problems. These goals and strategies are constantly re-evaluated and changed if necessary. Just the routine of talking to a professional in a safe, confidential setting can be helpful. Short term psychotherapy can last anywhere from several sessions to up to one year.
In long term psychotherapy, more complex personality issues can be explored in depth. For example, you and the psychotherapist will look at past patterns of childhood and family behavior to see how these patterns of behavior repeat themselves negatively in your present relationships. Strategies can be set up to change behaviors with you and your partner. Increased awareness can lead to actions that reduce anxiety. Learning tools like setting boundaries, using effective communication skills and holding your own point of view enhance couple relationships and increase self esteem. Long term psychotherapy also incorporates concrete problem solving techniques. Long term psychotherapy can last anywhere from one year to longer depending on the client’s motivation.
Couples or Relationship Therapy for both straight and gay persons can be an extremely powerful tool in changing relationship behaviors that are problematic. Here are some goals I can help you achieve in couples therapy:
- Using new concrete strategies to change and resolve problems in the relationship
- Having open discussions of issues
- Increasing awareness of how certain repetitive behaviors create problems and what their consequences and costs are
- How to address any addiction issues in the relationship
- Improving communication between the parties
And here is what I will do in the sessions as a couples or relationship therapist:
- I will be active is structuring the session to provide information, safety and empowerment to each partner.
- I will offer specific strategies for change and coach you on how to use them.
- I will not take sides.
- I will help you understand some of the family history for certain behaviors but the focus of therapy will be on present problems and solutions in the relationship.
- I will help you improve communication so that persons in the relationship do not interrupt, constantly blame or speak for the other person.
The overarching goal here is to change certain behaviors to empower each partner, helping each person have a voice and improving emotional wellbeing.
This is a new, exciting time for gay and lesbian persons. No matter what the United States Supreme Court does, the public perception and acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships and individual worth is changing for the better.
This time, now, is historic. It is an opportunity to explore, redefine and deepen personal goals, desires, relationships … to become even clearer and more confident about your personal and professional identity.
Psychotherapy can definitely play a positive role. Counseling is an opportunity—in a safe and confidential setting—to carefully explore fears, problems and hopes, to gain more understanding and the strength and power to accept life’s presenting issues, and to grow.
Psychotherapy does work. An experienced psychotherapist is one who is trained to listen well, keep boundaries, make suggestions when appropriate, provide information and give you encouragement.
This is a time of great change and hope.
Here are some questions to ask when looking for a therapist in NYC or seeking a counselor in New York City. Finding a counselor may be easy, but finding the right counselor entails asking some important questions.
- Does the therapist or counselor have experience helping others with the particular issues you are interested in exploring? The more experience the psychotherapist has addressing, for example, anxiety or depression, relationship problems or gay and lesbian issues, the more expertise he or she will bring to your concerns in those areas.
- Is the psychotherapist licensed? What graduate degrees does the therapist have? How long in general has the therapist been practicing, 1 year, 5 years, 15 years?
- Is the therapist presently supervised by another professional or peer? Most psychotherapists are supervised. Supervision serves a number of purposes including helping the therapist to discover his or her own blocks and getting advise.
- Does the psychotherapist or counselor have rules regarding confidentiality of information you share? What are they?
- What is the psychotherapist’s general philosophy or approach in therapy? Is he or she active with clients in giving feedback or more neutral? Which approach do you want?
- What is the therapist’s cancellation policy? Is it acceptable to you?
- And finally, do you feel safe and comfortable with the therapist? It is normal to feel some anxiety meeting the therapist for the first or second time, but is the therapist understanding, smart, and easy to relate to, or judgmental and unclear? Do you think it is “a good fit”? Feeling safe and comfortable is important to encourage, over time, a sense of trust so you can begin to explore freely your own thoughts and feelings without criticism.
Separate Fact From Fiction
Some of your thoughts may have nothing to do with present reality and everything to do with fear and anxiety.
Here is a helpful acronym to remind yourself that thoughts are not facts.
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
Many of the things you tell yourself may be nothing more than negative predictions.
Common examples of what I call “negative predictions” are:
- “I won’t be able to do that.”
- “It won’t make any difference, so there is no point in trying.”
- “I will never find a loving partner.”
These “facts” are not facts at all: they are predictions about what may or could happen in the future. When your belief system is based on negative thinking, it limits your planning abilities, confuses decision making and keeps you from succeeding at your goals. To avoid this type of stress and fear-based thinking, you and I can talk about how to identify your negative predictions and distinguish them from present reality. You will be surprised at how quickly you will feel more relaxed when you can identify and manage well these types of thoughts.
Learn how to identify triggers. Being aware of what triggers your anxiety can help you navigate through it and manage your feelings better.
People: Family members, work associates, or even certain friends who have a tendency to criticize, judge, or blame.
Places: A visit to the dentist, or a funeral, for example, can cause high anxiety
Situations: Public speaking, asking for a raise, or a career networking event can be stressful.
When you learn to recognize your specific triggers, you can develop a strategy in advance that will help you contain or manage those triggers. This can lessen your anxiety a great deal. For example, when you are feeling vulnerable, you will learn to avoid people that have a history of upsetting you. Instead, you will get in the habit of seeking out those who have a history of treating you with kindness and patience.
A good therapist / counselor will help you alleviate anxiety by helping you organize a plan to better navigate your specific triggers in order to help you feel more at ease.