Learn why counselors are vital to many who struggle with anxiety
It‘s never pleasant to feel distress for any reason, and mental health disorders (see Mental Health Disorders) such as anxiety (see Anxiety) present hurdles that have to be overcome to regain a sense of self, of personal importance, of self-acceptance, and happiness.
But now, more than at any other time in history, the prospect of getting over those hurdles is extremely achievable. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NIMH), today’s treatments for mental illnesses are 70% to 90% effective for reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.
The NIMH also states that early identification is paramount, and getting early treatment reduces the risk of further harm to the brain (see Brain Structure). Recovery is accelerated with early detection and intervention, and the chances of suffering behavioral ramifications significantly reduced.
Anxiety counseling provides the treatment needed for a successful recovery from any of the major anxiety disorders (see Anxiety Disorders), which include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.
One of the major hurdles, however, in pursuing anxiety counseling is stigma. Even though disorders such as anxiety have been proven to be biologically based disorders, society still places socially negative connotations on mental health illnesses. However, untreated anxiety in combination with other mental health disorders costs the U.S. more than 100 billion dollars annually, according to NIMH.
The organization bases this estimate on the unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, incarceration, suicide, and homelessness that result when individuals refuse to seek counseling.
When individuals do seek help for anxiety, they most likely seek help from a counselor or therapist. The terms are often used interchangeably. Most professionals treating any of the anxiety disorders employ the same type of interventions, interventions that have been proven effective by scientifically based experiments and studies.
Interventions usually fall within one of two main therapy categories: cognitive behavioral therapy (see Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and evidence-based therapy. Medications for anxiety, such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines can also be prescribed in combination with therapy. (For more information on the treatments and interventions used for anxiety, see Anxiety Treatments.)
In addition to therapy, counselors will also work with clients on overall lifestyle and behavioral changes, changes that aid the therapeutic process. Some of the main areas the counselor will address are nutrition, restful sleep, exercise and physical activity, and social relationships.
If other mental health disorders co-occur with anxiety, such as alcohol or substance abuse (see Mental Health Disorders), the counselor might refer the client for additional counseling or to support groups. And in some cases, partners, spouses, and families get involved in anxiety counseling. This is often necessary to ensure that those living with someone receiving treatment for anxiety understand how to help the individual follow anxiety management plans.
Family members also need to recognize when they need to exercise patience with the individual suffering with anxiety, and when to apply some pressure. Learning about how to live with a family member suffering with anxiety doesn’t necessarily take extensive family sessions, but knowledge about the disorder by all who live with the individual significantly improves the recovery process.
Becoming an anxiety counselor
Titles for counselors and therapists specializing in anxiety include psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, certified clinical mental health counselors, licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and clinical practitioners, among others.
Licensed mental health counselors treat a large percentage of those suffering with any type of anxiety. If you desire to work as a mental health counselor, you will need at least a master’s degree in mental health counseling or a similarly related psychology degree, and in most areas of the U.S., a state license.
For more information on a career that helps individuals suffering with anxiety and other mental health disorders, contact schools offering degrees in mental health counseling.
Anxiety Facts *
- Anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans, making them the most common mental health disorders.
- The causes of anxiety disorders stem from genetics, personality, life circumstances, and brain chemistry
- 6.8 million Americans have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- 2.2 million Americans have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- 6 million Americans have Panic Disorder (PD)
- 7.7 million Americans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- 15 million Americans have Social Anxiety Disorder
- 19 million Americans have a Specific Phobia
- Treatment for anxiety disorder is highly effective yet only about one-third of Americans with an anxiety disorder receive counseling and treatment
- Anxiety Disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion annually
*Compiled from data on the Anxiety Disorders Association of America website, www.adaa.org