I am anxious - too anxious for counselling!
Anxiety can become a habit, like a comforter to an infant, or a cigarette to a smoker. These habits cannot be broken just because society says they should. Your anxiety is similar.
- Do you find it hard to believe that you could not be anxious?
- What would you think about?
- Surely your mind will just create more thoughts all over again?
- Perhaps you are anxious that if you stopped worrying the worst things will happen, it is only because of your anxiety that bad things don’t happen. In effect it is unsafe to stop being anxious.
I suspect that this is why it is so difficult to get past those first hurdles and attend some counselling sessions; the fear of having your comforter removed. However, at the same time, you are also aware that being anxious stops you from doing things, stops you enjoying moments of spontaneity and can be harmful to your relationships.
You probably can cope with your anxiety until you get those really bad panic attacks when at their worst you need to get to hospital, or at their best you manage to get home before becoming ill. It might be after an attack that you think ‘right, it is about time I did something about this’. And so you are reading this article.
Step one - You have recognised that your anxiety is not doing you any good, and you need the help of someone else to help you change.
Breaking things into small achievable steps can often decrease the degree of anxiety it would otherwise cause. These are possible steps you could now try, at your own pace, to enable you to receive counselling. You know what you are comfortable with. It might be useful to get the support of a friend to encourage you in each step, to help you progress and not falter.
Step two - Find a counsellor near you, you can do that on the website (Counselling Directory) or through your GP. Find out about them, make sure you can access their place of work. You may want to find a picture of them, most counsellors will have one on their web page.
Step three - Make an initial appointment. This step may or may not be hard. If you struggle with phoning strangers you can usually email instead. You can even tell your counsellor how hard you are finding this. If the counsellor responds in a way you find empathic this is a good sign that you can work together. You may want to try a few local counsellors.
Step four - The work is going to begin, the impact is unknown and may create even more anxiety. Give yourself time to accept what you are feeling, this is when it is tempting to return to old habits. No one is going to rip your comforter away from you, but it will be uncomfortable giving it up. You might want to cancel your appointment, this is natural. You feel caught between a rock and a hard place. The decision to attend is yours and yours alone. Only you know the consequences of your continued anxiety state.
Step four-and-a-bit - If you want to cancel and your anxiety has increased allow yourself time to write two lists. The first list to describe all the things your anxiety stops you doing, and the people it affects. The second list is to describe why your anxiety is important to you, what comfort it provides, what you are scared of. Spend time reflecting as clearly as you can which list contains things that happen a lot and which things don’t happen much at all. This will help focus on why you don’t want to be anxious any more.
Step five - The initial assessment will not be like a counselling session. In brief you can expect your counsellor to do a bit more talking than they would usually do. They will want to make sure you know what to expect, they may give you a contract informing you about confidentiality. They will also clarify what is expected of you (turning up on time and paying fees - if applicable). You will have the opportunity to describe your anxiety, additional questions will be asked and then you can both agree how to work together in the future. Attending an appointment is not a cure for your anxiety.
Step six - This is now between you and your chosen counsellor, and will be a unique journey. It may stop and start. You can expect your counsellor to work with your needs, to challenge you when you’re able, to support you when you are vulnerable. The hardest thing is trusting that it is OK for you not to be anxious, and you have the potential to be different.
All journeys are different, your experiences are unique to you, you can label them good or bad, but really they are just experiences. Experiences that can give you pleasant or unpleasant feelings. Feelings can go. Take each day just as it is, this acceptance can decrease anxiety.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Emma Dunn
Emma Dunn is a counsellor in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. She has trained in the therapeutic use of mindfulness.