This blog will review anxiety counseling techniques that counselors and therapists can apply when treating individuals with anxiety during the current coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus has obvious physical health implications but it has also brought along with it significant anxiety problems. Not only are people afraid of catching COVID-19 but the resulting restrictions have led to worries about finances, education, and the future. For mental health professionals, the challenge is to help people cope effectively with their anxiety issues. Here are suggestions on what counseling techniques can be considered to assist the anxious client.
Learn to Accept Anxiety
People tend to want to avoid anxious feelings but that almost always makes them worse.
Only through confronting anxiety will it decrease. The task of the therapist is to normalize anxiety and teach clients that it is to their benefit to accept it. It is perfectly reasonable to be anxious in this climate. There is probably something wrong if you are not anxious. Luckily, you can learn the skills to successfully manage your worries. Long-term clients with clinical levels of anxiety or OCD have likely already developed some of these abilities. Anxiety Counseling Techniques like exposure and response prevention teach clients that if they can confront anxiety they will live to tell about it.
Clients Already Deal With Uncertainty
Uncertainty is what makes coronavirus and its consequences so frightening. Will I get COVID-19? What will my business look like three months from now? Will I be able to pay my bills? These are indeed scary thoughts. But it is important to remind clients that we live with uncertainty every day. Give clients examples of daily uncertainty to help them understand that they already possess the skills to deal with this crisis. For example, every time you get in your car there is the potential for an accident. You could also injure yourself whenever you workout. If people can deal with those uncertainties why can’t they cope with the unpredictability of the coronavirus?
Help People to Exhibit Self-Compassion
It is okay to be scared. Despite what many clients may think, they don’t have to be strong all the time. It is quite easy for people to beat up on themselves, however, when they feel afraid during a crisis. People must exhibit kindness for themselves and others to get through this difficult time. Encourage clients to give themselves affirmations and congratulations on dealing with this stressful situation. Besides supporting oneself emotionally, it is also essential they take the necessary steps to care of themselves. Employing self-care techniques, such as proper sleep hygiene and regular exercise will help clients maintain physical and psychological health.
It is common for people to feel out of control when there is so much uncertainty in the world. That is why it necessary to help anxious clients make some coronavirus rules to follow. Rules that have the backing of respected sources will instill the most confidence. For example, visit the CDC website and pick coronavirus rules you wish to follow. Will you wear a mask in public spaces? How about wash hands regularly? The point is to help lower anxiety and gain back some feeling of control that has been lost. However, rules should be reasonable and not overly restrictive. That is why it is important to use respected resources rather than shady information that can be found on the fringe of social media. In the same vein, following a routine helps clients feel like the world is more predictable and less chaotic. Encourage them to make a schedule and stick to it.
Anxious people tend to ruminate on the damaging consequences of past actions and all the possible negative future outcomes. It is crucial to have them focus on something more productive. Setting goals helps clients focus on achieving objectives rather than worrying about everything bad that can happen as a result of COVID-19. Any thoughts that don’t involve the coronavirus is a win. Besides, everyone feels good about getting stuff done.
Anxious people often make cognitive distortions, such as catastrophizing and all-or-nothing thinking. These thinking errors fuel their anxiety. Therapists must help their clients reframe their thoughts. Here are a few questions to ask to help them explore their thinking: “What is the actual risk of catching COVID-19? What are the steps I am taking to minimize my risk? Even if I caught the coronavirus, what is the likelihood I would get seriously ill?” Keep in mind, to do this effectively, therapists must come armed with valid coronavirus facts. The role of the therapist is to guide their clients toward realistic thinking rather than have them focus on worst-case scenarios. You want clients to always look for the evidence behind their thoughts. Ideally, a client is taught to do this on their own rather than having to rely on a therapist. Give thought records as homework to facilitate the process.
Mindfulness is not necessarily the cure-all for every problem but one area where it has proven to work is in reducing anxiety. In mindfulness, one focuses on the present rather than on unhelpful anxious thoughts of the past or future. A therapist can perform a guided mindfulness exercise in session but only if necessary. There are so many apps and YouTube videos that focus on mindfulness meditation that clients have numerous resources from which to choose to practice on their own. Headspace and Calm are two good apps for the uninitiated.
Coronavirus restrictions have led people to quarantine from one another in unprecedented numbers. Unfortunately, anxiety does the most damage when someone is isolated with their thoughts. When there is no one else around, anxious people tend to fill their heads with worries and negativity. Talking with other people will introduce another point of view and get a client out of their head. As a bonus, connecting with others helps elevate mood and offers needed support.
Coronavirus anxiety has overtaken the world. More people need professional assistance for anxiety issues than ever before. For therapists and clients alike, it may feel overwhelming. Luckily, with therapist guidance, and anxiety counseling techniques clients can take several manageable steps to effectively reduce their anxiety.
Telemental health (teletherapy) option instead of office visits can also ease your clients’ anxiety and TheraPlatform (practice management and telehealth in one software) is here to help you. They offer a 30-day free trial (no credit card required).