Counseling by Penny
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in life. Certain levels of anxiety and worry can be helpful and productive- for example, we worry about being hungry and having a place to live, so we work to obtain the resources needed to buy food and pay bills for a house, apartment, or other domestic living environment. However, there is a threshold point at which worry and anxiety can cause dysfunction and mental distress. So, one may ask, how much anxiety is too much?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition characterized by chronic worry and anxiety. Not to be confused with depressive symptoms, which are typically feelings of sadness and thinking about the past, anxiety is more fear-oriented about potential events taking place in the future. Those suffering from GAD are consistently anxious, to the point where it interferes with everyday functioning and activities. Anxiety is reported in nearly every life scenario, even when there is no apparent cause for worry, and the worst is expected in virtually every situation. Individuals that experienced pervasive, stressful life events throughout childhood are more vulnerable to developing GAD, but thankfully there are therapeutic treatments and tools that can be used and worked on to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
Some of the treatments in therapy vary from practitioner to practitioner. At times medication management may also be beneficial in handling various degrees of anxiety. Within our own practice we use several techniques to help overcome anxiety such as biofeedback, mindfulness, sand tray, and help with cognitive distortions.
What is Biofeedback and how is it helpful in treating GAD?
Biofeedback is an evidence based treatment which gives the opportunity for someone with anxiety to learn to properly respond to anxiety without the use of medications. The tools available when using biofeedback allow the client the opportunity to actually visualize the physiological symptoms of anxiety without using invasive procedures.
The client is able to learn how to effectively breathe to help decrease uneven breathing (rapid or shallow) patterns and to decrease the rapid heartbeat. The biofeedback machine will also help the client to depict muscle tension within their body which becomes more evident with episodes of anxiety. Another added benefit of biofeedback is the ability to learn how to maintain proper brainwave levels.
Mindfulness is a technique used by many counselors. Mindfulness allows one to accept what they feel and to process the feeling while coming back to the present. The goal is to calm the mind and to stop the repetitive thoughts that often accompany anxiety. With mindfulness a lot of focus is put on sensations, kinesthetic activities, and meditation.
Sandtray is an expressive form of therapy which can be done outside of talk therapy, and is used with adults and children alike. Sandtray allows the client complete control in constructing their own world based on symbolic figures. Sandtray does not require a client to be artistic and allows the client the opportunity to look for potential triggers, barriers, and obstacles which may be unforeseen to the client. The sand in itself is also a sensory based tool used to help soothe the client.
Cognitive distortion is a type of thinking which is often seen in clients with anxiety. This occurs when the client takes any problem or issue and begins to magnify it. Helping with cognitive distortions means the therapist helps to discredit these false beliefs with the client and gives them tools to help them with any future cognitive distortions.
Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.
Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York: New American Library.
Halpenny, E. A. & Linzmayer, C. D. (2013). “It was fun”: An evaluation of sand tray pictures, an innovative visually expressive method for researching children’s experiences with nature. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12, 310-337. Retrieved from http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/IJQM/article/view/17085/15435
The Columbia World of Quotations (1996), Columbia University Press. Retrieved April 11, 2013, from http://quotes.dictionary.com/search/sand_?page=3