Many professionals are trained to help people with anxiety and a whole raft of other mental health issues. But who should you approach?
Over the years, as a qualified therapist, many clients have asked me questions about how I work and the differences between the approaches and qualifications of different therapists. Hence I decided to write this blog highlighting some areas you might be interested in if looking for someone to help you with anxiety issues.
Let’s get the basics of anxiety out of the way first. We can then consider four different therapists from whom you can get help.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a fear or apprehension. It can be a generalised feeling or specific to a time, place, or object such as flying, spiders or heights.
Anxiety isn’t all bad. It keeps us alert to danger and protects us in uncertain times. It’s a survival mechanism.
But excessive anxiety can trigger bodily responses such as hyperventilating, sweating, shaking, and a racing heartbeat. It can also overwhelm us and result in worry and panic attacks.
If you have been suffering from anxiety for over a few months and find it is stopping you from doing things in life, you need help.
There are lots of professionals that can help.
Should you see a Doctor?
Anyone anxious about negative thoughts and feelings affecting their life should see their doctor for a health check. This is because a few medical conditions cause anxiety, and some medications cause anxiety.
Doctors use the medical model of helping. They often prescribe medications to help in anxious times, or they can refer you to a National Health counselling service. You will probably need to wait several weeks for NHS counselling, which may be provided online, via a telephone call or in person for a set number of sessions.
People will get referred to a psychiatrist if the anxiety has become severe or if there is a mental health problem. A psychiatrist is a doctor who focuses more on disorders and disease management of mental health conditions. Psychiatrists diagnose mental health conditions and can trigger other services, such as a mental health nurse to visit you or exercise referrals.
Doctors can also refer to health and well-being services, exercise referral schemes and specialist clinics.
Could a Psychologist help with anxiety?
There are different types of psychologists, for example, clinical psychologists, sports psychologists, social psychologists, counselling psychologists, occupational psychologists etc. Usually, clinical or counselling psychologists help people with anxiety unless it is linked to sports or work.
Psychologists may have areas that they specialise in. For example, some psychologists may specialise in cognitive psychology (how we think), others specialise in behaviours, and some are most interested in developmental psychology related to children.
Larger organisations may also have occupational psychologists. They help with assessments of new employees and the behaviours of those already in the workplace. They can also help staff to work better through good health and well-being practices. This includes helping people to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace. Their aim is to help the organisation and staff to work better.
Psychologists are highly qualified. They study for many years and have often studied to the Master’s degree level. Psychologists in the National Health Service have studied to the PHD level and are called doctors. But they are not the same as medical doctors. In the UK, psychologists are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.
But there are many private psychologists as well.
Psychology is research/ evidenced based. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) is underpinned by a lot of research; this counselling method is often the preferred choice for counselling psychologists helping people with anxiety. Some psychologists also use hypnosis in their practice.
Psychologists can also work in research or teaching. These psychologists work in educational institutions. They may do further research on anxiety, so they would not be the first person to go to if you suffer from anxiety.
I have trained as a psychologist.
What about a Counsellor?
A counsellor is someone who listens and helps you explore a problem so that you can find solutions or acceptance to feel better. They often help people with anxiety disorders.
Counsellors may work with children, teenagers and adults.
Counsellor training depends on the level but will commonly require a minimum of three years of training. All professional counsellors also do continuing professional development (CPD) and have clinical supervision as part of their working practice o that they are always keeping up to date.
Within counselling, there are different ways of providing counselling. For example, some counsellors help you explore the past more because they believe that is where the problem originated. Other counsellors are humanistic, solution-focused or trained as Cognitive Behavioural Therapists (CBT). There are hundreds of different ways that counsellors are trained, so it’s essential to get the person who suits you best and has had the experience helping with your problem.
One of the most common types of counselling today is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This counselling can be provided digitally, in groups, or face to face. The idea is to understand the thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how they influence each other. Some apps help people go through a programme on their own.
In the UK, counselling training can be via the academic route, i.e. a degree or master’s degree or along a vocational route from level 2 up to level 6. Most trained counsellors are at level 4 or 5. However, like many other professions, such as beauty therapists, training is not mandatory, so it is not regulated by the Government, and anyone can, in theory, practice as a counsellor. Qualified counsellors are usually registered with a professional body such as the BACP, NCPS, UKCP, etc. These membership organisations require proof of training and insurance. They are regulated through the Professional Standards Authority.
Some people call themselves a psychotherapist rather than a counsellor, but there is no agreed definition of the difference between the titles. However, counselling now has the drive to differentiate between the two.
Some people who practice psychotherapy may have more training and deal with more complex cases, but this depends on the practitioner. Psychotherapists and counsellors use the same ways of working. For example, both may be trained in CBT and have the same core skills, such as listening, building rapport and formulating a way forward to help the client reduce anxiety.
Counsellors and psychotherapists are professionals who can also work in various settings. For example, they may work in a professional organisation such as a charity or for the National Health Service. They may also work in private practice.
Counsellors and psychotherapists usually work in a one-to-one setting. They help the anxious person to explore other thoughts and behaviours and find new coping mechanisms. Nevertheless, they may also do couples counselling if a relationship is the cause of the problem, group counselling, family counselling and online counselling.
Some counsellors work for an Employer Assistance Programme (EAP) to reduce mental health problems in the workplace. This means there is a contract between the organisation and a third party that specialises in supplying counsellors. The counsellor contracts with the organiser to supply counselling hours at a fixed rate. It is common that EAPs will provide up to six sessions of counselling for anxiety issues. Counsellors are strict on confidentiality, so they will not divulge information about the employee to their workplace. However, they may be required to state what the problem is associated with for reporting purposes. For example, it might be work-related stress and anxiety or anxiety related to grief.
I have trained as a counsellor/psychotherapist to level 5. I have further qualifications in CBT and undertake monthly supervision and additional study.
Do Complementary therapists help people with anxiety?
Complementary therapists are complementary to traditional medicine. You could include alternative therapists here, but I like to complement mainstream healthcare and work with other professionals to get the best outcome for the client.
There is a long list of therapists who will help people with anxiety. Here are some examples.
- Massage therapists
- Reiki practitioners
- Energy practitioners
- Spiritual Healers
- Emotional Freedom Technique
- Colour therapy
- Tai Chi
There are many more. They have varying philosophies and techniques, and the therapists have different lengths of training and qualifications.
Sometimes hypnotherapy is considered a complementary therapy, although it can be used in mainstream healthcare with CBT. Hypnotherapists can have intensive short-course training or be trained to master’s or doctorate levels.
The way forward
In conclusion, the first person to contact is a doctor to check that there are no medical causes of anxiety. You can then contact a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist or complementary therapist or ask your doctor to refer you.
Finally, find the right person for you by checking their credentials, such as membership in a professional body. Ask questions, seek out recommendations and real testimonials and only work with people who you feel you can get on with.
Find out more about me and check my qualifications. I would love to show you how I can help you.
Please book an initial consultation to learn more about how I can help with stress and anxiety.