Fear And Anxiety: How Counseling Can Help

Medically reviewed by April Brewer , DBH, LPC
Updated March 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Occasional fear or worrying may be normal. However, it could signify an anxiety disorder if you’re experiencing worries or fear that don’t go away and interfere with day-to-day life. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders, and counseling is one of the most common and successful treatments. Through therapy, you can learn healthy coping mechanisms to manage your symptoms and feel in control of your life. 

Ready To Conquer Your Fears?

Types Of Anxiety 

There are several types of anxiety disorders classified in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). They include the following. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 

Generalized anxiety disorder is often characterized by a persistent feeling of dread for an extended period. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability 
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleep concerns
  • Feeling on edge

People with this type of anxiety may also experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches, or unexplained pain.

Panic Disorder 

Panic disorder may cause unexpected and frequent panic attacks or sudden and intense periods of discomfort, fear, or loss of control without a clear cause. Symptoms of a panic attack may include a racing heart rate, trembling, sweating, chest pain, a sense of impending doom, or feeling out of control. 

Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety disorder may involve anxiety around social situations, such as a fear of being judged by others. The anxiety may impact activities like going to work or school or running errands. Physical signs of social anxiety disorder could include trembling, sweating, a racing heart, speaking with a soft voice, stomach aches, or difficulty making eye contact.

Specific Phobias 

Specific phobias are characterized by a fear of or aversion to specific situations, objects, or places. These fears may seem out of proportion to the potential danger. People with a phobia may go out of their way to avoid what they’re afraid of and experience intense anxiety or panic attacks if they encounter it. 

What Is Counseling?

Counseling is a broad term used to describe the process of getting professional assistance using various techniques to improve well-being, resolve mental health challenges, and prevent and relieve distress to increase one’s ability to function.

Therapy or counseling is often used to treat mental illness and the physical symptoms associated with those concerns. Treating anxiety disorders, depression, anger management, and relationship problems may be possible with a suitable and effective therapist. 

Counseling Options For Fear And Anxiety

There are many options for interpersonal therapy and counseling for fear and anxiety disorders. One of the most widely used forms is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of talk therapy that aims to help an individual confront and challenge unwanted thoughts that might lead to certain behaviors. It may be practiced by examining negative thought processes and replacing them with positive thinking patterns. 

The success of a counseling type may depend on the type of anxiety disorder a person is experiencing. People with generalized anxiety disorder may respond well to CBT, whereas an individual with a severe phobia might find success in exposure therapy. Choosing the proper type of counseling may begin with knowing your symptoms and conversing with potential therapists. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy 

CBT is one of the most widely used therapy treatments for many mental health issues and is endorsed by the Anxiety and Depression Association as a treatment for anxiety disorders.

There are a few ways in which a counselor can approach CBT. Many sessions are one-on-one with the counselor, or a counselor may lead a group therapy session. Change often occurs through attending the sessions and doing homework between sessions. Often, CBT requires a shorter treatment span than other types of therapy. 

Ready To Conquer Your Fears?

Exposure And Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) 

Although considered a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy specifically desensitizes individuals to their fears by exposing them to the fear over time. It may be especially effective for treating anxiety associated with a specific phobia, fear, or compulsion. For example, if a person has arachnophobia, systematic desensitization may involve exposing them to a spider photo, an article about a spider, or a video of spiders. 

The counseling session might include keeping a tiny spider across the room from the client. In the next session, the spider might be a little closer. The process could continue until the fear starts to diminish. The therapist might record the anxiety level the client feels throughout the session. 

This type of therapy has been effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and can also treat other types of anxiety, like social anxiety disorder. For instance, with a fear of public speaking, a counselor might have the patient prepare a short speech to recite during a session. The following session might involve one additional listener. By the end of the exposure therapy, the patient might be reciting the speech to a room full of people. Although it may seem scary to face your fears, exposure therapy has a success rate of 80% to 95% for many conditions and symptoms. 


You may have seen forms of hypnosis for entertainment through movies or TV. However, hypnosis may also be used in a clinical setting. In these sessions, the client is still in control. In this type of therapy for anxiety, the client and the counselor work together to develop a specific focus to remove the focus from anxiety. 

An individual using hypnosis for treatment may be willing and able to partake in the sessions. Focus and an openness to new techniques may be required. By identifying the root of the sources of anxiety, a client and counselor can lessen the sensations and focus on more positive or wanted sensations or thoughts. 

Do I Have To Take Medication To Overcome Fear And Anxiety?

Medications often treat the symptoms of anxiety without addressing the core issue. Although generalized anxiety disorder and similar conditions may benefit from anti-anxiety medication, not everyone may find it useful. 

For some conditions like social phobias, studies have found that talk therapy is more effective than medication. Speaking with your mental healthcare professional about the possibility of medication can help you determine if it is a suitable option. Some people may find relief from utilizing therapy and medications in conjunction with one another. 

Counseling Options 

If you experience fear or anxiety that interferes with your daily life, therapy may help you gain valuable coping mechanisms to manage your symptoms. However, some individuals experiencing anxiety may fear seeing a therapist in person or face barriers to treatment, such as panic attacks or an inability to pay. In these cases, online therapy may be beneficial. 

It can feel overwhelming to locate a therapist, make phone calls, schedule an appointment, and meet with a new therapist face-to-face. With online therapy, you can get matched with an available counselor, attend sessions from home, and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions. If you don’t want to meet over video or phone calls, the live chat option can allow you to message back and forth with your therapist. 

Research also shows that online therapy is effective in treating anxiety disorders. One study found that online CBT could effectively treat general anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and panic disorder. If you’re interested in trying this therapy method, consider reaching out to a platform like BetterHelp to be matched with a therapist that fits your preferences and symptoms. 


Fear and anxiety can be concerning, and many may wonder if reaching out for support from a therapist for anxiety would be beneficial. Several forms of therapy have been proven effective for treating symptoms of anxiety disorders. If you want to learn more about how these methods could support you, consider reaching out to a therapist for further guidance. 

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