Nine Areas To Consider When Looking For An Anxiety Therapist To Help You

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you struggle with anxiety, you are not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses in the US, with over 40 million adults impacted. 

Anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can come with distressing physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. However, anxiety is often treatable. When seeking a provider, looking for specific qualities, credentials, and techniques can allow you to find the most suitable professional for your needs. 

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Is worry and stress taking up too much time?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety can be defined as excessive worrying, stress, and fear. While everyone may experience anxiety at specific points, some people could find that it causes difficulties in daily functioning.

When anxiety symptoms impact your day-to-day life and mental health, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. The field of psychology tells us there are various types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and others.

Many physical health symptoms can also accompany anxiety, including:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • A change in appetite or eating habits 
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Shakiness 
  • Digestive issues

Anxiety symptoms are highly treatable and may be reduced through support from a mental health professional. However, knowing which types of therapy are often used to treat these symptoms can be beneficial.

Are there therapists who specialize in anxiety?

Most mental health providers are qualified to treat anxiety or anxiety disorders. However, some professionals may specialize in the condition. Those specializing in anxiety might have taken courses in the subject or have years of experience in standard methods used to treat it.  

Nine areas to consider when seeking an anxiety therapist

Consider the following nine factors when looking for a therapist specializing in anxiety. 

Insurance coverage and cost 

If you have health insurance, start your search for a mental health provider with your insurance company. Doing so may help you reduce the out-of-pocket cost of therapy, as insurance companies can refer you to an in-network provider your policy covers. The cost of sessions can vary from one anxiety therapist to another, but insurance may help you save money on your sessions.

Talk to your insurance company to find out what type of mental health professionals or therapy they cover. Many insurance companies may only cover a certain number of sessions each year, so it can be beneficial to know your limits. In addition, some insurance providers might not cover couples or family therapy without a medical reason. 

If you don't have insurance, ask a provider about the cost they charge per session and any late or cancellation fees. You can also ask if they offer a sliding scale option, which includes different session costs depending on an individual's income. 

Medication and diagnosis 

If you are seeking medication or an official diagnosis, it can be beneficial to note that some providers may be unable to offer them. Psychologists, licensed therapists, counselors, and social workers cannot write prescriptions in most states. While they may treat you with different therapy techniques, psychiatrists and other medical doctors are the only types of providers that can prescribe medication. Although a therapist or psychologist can offer diagnoses, some may choose not to or are unable to, due to the policies of the company for whom they work, such as some online therapists. 

Specializations

While licensed therapists and other mental health professionals can treat several mental health conditions or challenges, many have a few areas in which they specialize.

If you are experiencing anxiety, finding a therapist specializing in anxiety may suit you more than finding one experienced in other areas of mental health. Anxiety therapists may have distinct strategies for helping those experiencing anxiety, which could offer advantages over a more general type of therapy. 

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Credentials

Many professionals offer advice and coaching services, but not all are licensed to offer counseling. For example, personal coaches, religious leaders, and support group leaders may advertise counseling but actually offer coaching. They may have some training or positive advice to offer. 

However, ensure any individual you visit for mental health counseling has a license to practice in their state and has the proper educational background and experience. Receiving advice from someone without a license may subject you to unethical or incorrect advice or treatment. You can contact a counselor's state licensing board to report unethical treatment or practice without a license. 

Availability

While it could show that a therapist is popular if they have a waitlist, it may not benefit you if you have to wait weeks or months to get an appointment. Instead, consider looking for providers with an open schedule who can offer support at a time that works for you. You may be able to find quicker appointments by using services like online therapy. 

Communication 

Some therapists or mental health professionals are strict about only being available to a client or patient when they are at an appointment. Others may not mind being contacted by phone or email in between appointments when needed.

If you like the idea of being able to speak to a therapist when you need it instead of waiting for an appointment, let your prospective therapist know. You could also benefit from an online therapy platform that allows you to do so.  

Location 

You can check your therapist's location online when you search for a provider. Looking for a therapist that is in your area may be most beneficial. Different areas are likely to have varying ranges of session rates and different types of mental health counselors. So if you are able to drive to a less crowded area, you might find more affordable counselors outside a larger city limits. You might also have more options for sliding scale or low-income providers that offer financial aid. In addition, pay attention to where the office is located. Consider how traffic might look before therapy and whether you have time with your other responsibilities to make your appointment.

Comfort level 

When you find an anxiety therapist, it may benefit you most to feel comfortable with your therapist. If you are uncomfortable with your therapist, you may struggle to trust them or be vulnerable during therapy. Let your therapist know if you're having doubts. You may be able to devise a plan to help increase your comfort. However, if the feeling persists, it may benefit you to find a new provider. 

Therapy type 

Many types of therapy can be used when treating anxiety. Before you start anxiety counseling sessions with a therapist, find out what approach the therapist or mental health professional takes in addressing anxiety. Some therapists may use a combination of approaches. Common types of therapy for anxiety can include the following.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 

CBT, a form of psychotherapy, focuses on a client's thoughts and behavioral patterns. Specifically, it targets how thoughts and beliefs can impact how one reacts to certain situations. Through talk therapy like CBT, clients can learn healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety, partake in worksheets and exercises, and identify ways to challenge thought patterns.

Exposure treatment

Exposure therapy may help individuals with mild or extreme anxiety to overcome triggers that make them anxious. By slowly exposing the individual to circumstances that trigger anxiety in a controlled environment, a therapist can help to guide the patient through their thinking. Through exposure therapy, individuals must confront their anxiety head-on and learn skills to manage triggers as they arise in the real world.

EMDR

EMDR is a modern treatment often used to support clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it can also be used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. During the session, a therapist can use bilateral stimulation exercises, such as waving their finger in front of the client's eyes or using harmless hand buzzers to help them reprocess memories that may contribute to their symptoms. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Medication 

Some medications may help those with anxiety disorders reduce distressing physical or emotional symptoms while they work through therapy. A doctor specializing in psychiatry may be able to give you more information about medications relating to mental health conditions. Consult with a doctor before changing, stopping, or starting any medication.

Biofeedback 

Biofeedback therapy shows clients their body's physical responses to anxiety and stress. In sessions, they are connected to machines showing their blood pressure, heart rate, and brain waves, among other vitals. They can watch their vitals as they respond to certain stimuli or talk to their therapist. After seeing these changes, they may better understand how their body is connected to their mind. They can learn techniques in session and watch their vitals return to normal, showing how anxiety reduction techniques function. 

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Therapy options 

Anxiety disorders can be manageable or treatable with support from a mental health professional like a therapist. There are many forms of anxiety treatment and patients can vary in what they find effective and helpful. If you struggle to find a provider who meets your criteria for therapy, such as cost, distance, resources, or availability, you might also consider internet-based anxiety therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, which offers many licensed therapists specializing in anxiety disorders. 

Studies show that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for common mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and chronic stress. In addition, online forms of treatment can be more cost-effective, as therapists do not have to pay for an office and may cut down costs like transportation, mail, or office maintenance. You can also choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your provider. In some cases group therapy may also be an option, allowing you to connect with others who experience anxiety. With a flexible and client-focused platform, you may be able to find the care you seek.

Takeaway
Thousands of therapists working in the US specialize in anxiety. Consider contacting a therapist in your area or online for further guidance into your anxiety symptoms and concerns.
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