“I’ve been seeing my therapist for years and she never explained this the way you do!”
“How can it be that all the different counselors and doctors I’ve seen have never talked about my anxiety this way?”
“I’ve been through countless therapists over the years. None of them explained this problem the way you do!”
These are statements and questions I encounter on a regular basis from podcast listeners and members of my social media community. If you’ve ever wondered why none of your doctors, therapists or counselors have ever talked about your anxiety problems the way I do, then this podcast episode is for you.
We are all familiar with the idea that doctors specialize in treating specific illnesses, injuries, and parts of the body. Oncologists treat cancer. Orthopedists treat bones. Gastroenterologists treat problems with the stomach, intestines, and the digestive system. We do not ask an oncologist to treat a broken ankle. In mental health, there are also different types of problems, disorders, and even illnesses. Just like certain injuries have treatments that work best for them, certain mental health issues also have ideal or most effective treatments and interventions.
Of the different “world views” that dominate psychology today, by far the most effective in treating the anxiety disorders that I am always address is the cognitive-behavioral paradigm. It’s not even a question any more. The data is incredibly clear over decades of real world clinical experiences. The therapists and counselors that area consistently most effective in “curing” disorders like agoraphobia and OCD are the therapists that are committed to the cognitive-behavioral approach to the disorders. This includes CBT, REBT, DBT, ACT, and the other variants of what we generally call cognitive behavioral therapy. While these therapists are most successful in treating our particular problems, therapists and mental health practitioners with other world views will also attempt to treat anxiety disorders. Analysis, humanists, and even to some degree biological psychologists will often lay claim to anxiety disorders even when the evidence shows that those approaches are clearly not as effective as an approach rooted in the cognitive-behavioral paradigm.
This leads to many many people engaging the aid of therapists and counselors that – while having the best of intentions – are simply not equipped to properly explain and treat something like panic disorder or health anxiety. Many wind up with humanistic or analytical therapists for years on end, making very little progress in truly solving their anxiety related problems. Others jump from therapist to therapist, never finding the right “match”.
So if you are wondering why all the people you’ve turned to for help with your anxiety problem have never explained it and talked about it the way I do, the answer is simple. They were just not trained to treat your particular problem, or believe that their form of therapy can be effective, when in most cases it is not.
You are not broken, defective, or un-fixable. The odds are very high that you’ve just been with the wrong therapist(s) given your particular problem. While frustrating and disheartening, that issue is not permanent. Finding the right help can get you on the road to recovery no matter how long you’ve suffered.
- Let’s acknowledge that the vast majority of therapists and mental health practitioners really want to help. They are coming from a place of kindness and compassion and the desire to help their patients. I believe this to be true.
- A cognitive-behavioral approach to psychology is hands down the most effective approach when it comes to treating anxiety disorders.
- Help can be found by engaging with helpers that follow a cognitive behavioral approach to these problems.
- It is possible to have more than one mental health issues at the same time. Anxiety disorders and things like trauma often co-exist. Integrative approaches to therapy are perfectly fine, but when it comes to solving your anxiety problems, your integrative therapist has to include cognitive-behavioral therapy as the primary ingredient in your therapy “soup”. Alternatively, seeing both a CBT therapist and a trauma recovery coach (for example) is a perfectly acceptable strategy. It does not have to be all or none.
You may feel like there’s no way to get good help with your anxiety problems simply because you haven’t found it up to this point. The help is out there. We often just have to know what to look for.
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Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)