Updated: Jan 28
Nearly half of all my new clients who come to me for anxiety and panic attacks have participated in counseling before. 100% of all my clients who come to me for anxiety and panic attacks, that have been to counseling before, have all been told "just breathe".
Do you treat a sinus infection by taking Tylenol for your headaches? NO! You don't treat anxiety by teaching someone to breathe! Don't get me wrong, breathing effectively is helpful but wouldn't it be more effective to teach someone to identify the core fears contributing to their anxiety and work on that?
Several years ago I became very interested in anxiety disorders and the focus of my research was Dr. David Burns, MD. His models for treatment and the person-centered way that he helps people eliminate their anxiety (without medication) was very inspiring. As I began to study him the more I could identify with his Cognitive Model. I can guarantee that I have helped Dr. Burns sell lots of his books by recommending all my clients read them!
Many of my client referrals come from former clients. It's fairly common for clients having 3-6 panic attacks a day to reduce those to ZERO in about 4-5 sessions. Needless to say, most people are curious, especially when they've seen success from their friend, family member, or loved one. For some clients, I can describe my method for treatment the first session and they can grasp the concept and be excited about the next step. Some, on the other hand, may need that first session broken down into two to keep from getting overwhelmed.
Since anxiety is a direct result of fear, sometimes people are reluctant to want to eliminate their anxiety because they know they will have to face it. Helping people discover their core fears is one of the most rewarding thing I have every experienced professionally. I believe that all of our actions are based out of fear- if that is true, understanding and addressing fears can give people back the control they have lost over their own emotions.
When someone asks me how I can help them, I always say that my role as a counselor is to help you regain control over your emotions. Think for a moment about how differently your life might be if you didn't feel as though you were hostage to your own emotions. How empowering would it be to decide what emotions you want to feel at all times!!
When I decided to become a professional counselor I would have never imagined going in the direction of anxiety and panic disorders. I had always imagined being a play therapist and working with children. I still love working with children, but I have to say my passion lies within this area.
In summary, if you're suffering from anxiety or panic attacks and your counselor is telling your to "breathe", seek our Dr. Burn's book "When Panic Attacks" and make a decision to take control of your emotions again. You can do more than just breathe!