There are several types of talking therapy for anxiety, but how do you choose?
“Counselling” is an umbrella term for a range of talking therapies and includes Person-Centred Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (“CBT”), and Gestalt Therapy. But what counselling is best for anxiety?
If you suffer from anxiety, one of the key features is a loss of confidence in your ability to make decisions; making choosing what type of therapy a potential nightmare. So let me simplify this for you.
Quantitative studies by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (“NICE”) have identified CBT as the most effective. However, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (“BACP”) contends that the tests didn’t consider that improvements in quality of life are difficult to measure.
I shall focus on the differences between the main types of talking therapy: Person-Centred and CBT.
A Technique or Personal Growth?
I understand the basic principles of CBT, but as a Person-Centred Counsellor, I know much more about my approach.
CBT – A Trick Up Your Sleeve
In CBT, the view is that your problems evolve from erroneous patterns of thinking and emotional responses to those thoughts. Physical sensations and actions are also part of the network of life experiences.
The approach is to look closely at how one thing leads to another and try to break the cycle.
The treatment aims to replace your thinking habits deliberately, so it demands regular “homework”, as directed by the therapist.
I’ve heard of CBT therapists suggesting clients imagine a light switch in their head that they can turn off when needed, like when they become aware of an unhelpful thinking pattern; this might work for some people.
So, the CBT approach is to change behaviour by changing habits.
Person-Centred – You’re The Expert
Where I practice, in South Yorkshire, the “traditional” culture means you’re somehow weak if you can’t just “pull yourself together”. Moreover, this stigmatises mental illness and discourages people, particularly men, from talking about their problems.
However, in the Person-Centred approach, you are the best person to have a say in how you heal because you are unique, and what works for others won’t necessarily work for you.
I see this approach as most closely fitting to how you and other people are and particularly effective in counselling for anxiety. After all, Carl Rogers, who developed this approach, based it on thousands of hours observing what worked best in sessions.
He discovered that when people were encouraged to talk freely about personal issues because they felt safe from judgement, they dropped the coping strategies that stopped them from engaging in healthy life processes. Hence most therapists talk about being non-judgemental and providing a safe place for you to talk.
It’s all about you rediscovering that vital spark within and regaining awareness of who you are.
Moreover, this is called having a sense of self, and it’s like being more in touch with what you really think and feel. As a result, you’ve more confidence in yourself.
What Do You Prefer?
In summary, CBT seems to be about breaking habits and changing something on the outside so that, in time, you become different. It’s not about looking at what brought you to this point – your past.
In a nutshell, the Person-Centred approach is about changing how you feel. You know what’s relevant in your story to healing. Furthermore, exercising your brain in talking and directing your recovery with skilled support means you get stronger. Feeling better transforms how you behave.
All things considered, if you’re Ok with being given homework and hope for a quick fix, you might prefer CBT, but if you feel a need to take back control of your life and stretch yourself, Person-Centred Counselling might be best. At the end of the day, it’s your choice.