Therapy For Anxiety: Kinds, Types

By Dylan Buckley|Updated September 7, 2022

Therapy for symptoms of anxiety and anxiety disorders can dramatically improve your life. It isn't always easy to admit when your anxiety has reached the point where you can't handle it on your own, but sometimes you need help. Once you realize this, you may not be sure where to turn. 

Anxiety symptoms can be debilitating if not treated. Severe anxiety can take a toll on your physical health, your relationships, and your career. Thankfully, you don’t need to let anxiety interfere with your life. There are various types of therapy available to help you reduce anxiety symptoms.

Before you begin looking for a therapist, though, it may help to learn about the different kinds of anxiety therapy available, so you can think about which one makes the most sense for you.

Depending on your specific symptoms, therapists can use many different therapeutic techniques and strategies to help you face some of the issues that result in anxiety and teach you how to cope with your reactions. 

People respond differently to various methods, so you may find an approach that works for you as soon as you start therapy or you may cycle through several methods before you find one that helps you. No matter what, it's important to know that there's something out there that will work for you. 

In this article, we'll look at some of your options for reducing anxiety symptoms.

Types of Therapy for Anxiety

Anxiety disorder isn’t just one thing - there are actually multiple types of anxiety disorders, which is why there are also multiple therapies to treat anxiety.

There are six types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder

According to the International Clinical Psychopharmacology Journal, of these six anxiety disorders, the three most common anxiety disorders are Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Because there isn’t just one type of anxiety disorder, specific symptoms can be hard to list. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, these may include:

  • Feeling restless
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Irritability
  • Getting fatigued easily
  • Constantly worrying
  • Sleep issues
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and stomach aches

Types of therapy for anxiety can involve talk therapies, skills training, psychodynamic therapy, mind-body therapies, desensitization techniques, and much more. All of the types of therapy for anxiety listed below can take the form of individual or group therapy sessions.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly known as talk therapy, and is commonly used for anxiety disorders. CBT works by helping you identify negative thoughts and behaviors, so you can challenge their validity. Then it can help replace these negative thoughts with more realistic ones. As you work through the full scope of negative thoughts that cause anxiety in your life, you can develop a more positive and realistic mindset to help you face anxiety-provoking situations with greater ease and comfort. CBT is one of the types of therapy most used by therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals for reducing symptoms associated with various anxiety disorders.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is designed to help people learn and practice mindfulness, so they can accept things as they are. Healthy acceptance means seeing things from a realistic, non-judgmental perspective. In mindfulness practice, you focus on the information you receive from your five senses to help you stay grounded in the here and now. 

This also helps you challenge the feelings of intense dread that anxiety often provokes. When you know you're not in danger, you can help prevent overwhelming feelings and future attacks from taking over your body and mind.

There Is An Anxiety Treatment That Will Work For You

Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a type of mind-body therapy in which you learn to recognize and control your physiological responses to stress. A trained therapist places sensors on you to record your body's responses to stressful stimuli. Then, with practice, you can learn to slow your heart rate and breathing and practice progressive muscle relaxations whenever you begin to feel anxiety. This type of therapy will take time, but it can be beneficial for certain individuals.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior Therapy (DBT) is very effective in teaching people to deal with the overwhelming emotions that typically lead to anxiety. The theory behind this method contains an unusual paradox: it suggests that you have to accept things as they are to move toward changing them.

"If you're still not sure which type of therapy is best for you, you can begin your quest by choosing a therapist. When you start working with a licensed therapist, they can help you identify the source(s) and objects of your anxiety. Then, they'll be able to explain the type of anxiety you're going through. With this information, you'll be able to work together to develop a treatment plan."

Dialectical behavior therapy occurs in both individual therapy and group sessions. During a group session, you'll learn to practice mindfulness and other coping skills as a means of reducing anxiety. Also, group skills sessions often teach you to increase your distress tolerance, regulate your emotions, and become more interpersonally effective. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can be used to treat social anxiety, separation anxiety, and other types of anxiety disorders.

Exposure Therapy and Systematic Desensitization

Exposure therapy gives you the opportunity to face whatever provokes your anxiety. Types of exposure therapy include systematic desensitization and virtual reality therapy. Systematic desensitization involves intentional and controlled exposure to the least frightening aspects of the thing you fear. 

One technique of exposure therapy involves imaginal exposure. As implied by the name, this involves imagining your triggers and fears, focusing on them until they no longer give you anxiety symptoms. Imaginal exposure is a safe but effective way to desensitize people to their triggers.

With each subsequent session, you'll be exposed to increasingly vivid and profound aspects of what you fear. Exposure Therapy is sometimes also called Reprocessing Therapy because it involves learning to reprocess your triggers. 

However, you're unlikely to be overwhelmed. Instead, you increase your ability to endure this exposure with each small step you take. You'll know systematic desensitization is successful when you can face the object you fear without losing your ability to function appropriately in the situation.

Exposure Therapy is considered by the National Institute of Mental Health to be one of the best types of therapy for anxiety disorders. 

Virtual Reality Therapy

Another type of therapy for anxiety disorders is Virtual reality therapy. A new form of exposure therapy, a typical session involves sitting in front of a computer display and wearing virtual reality equipment. During therapy sessions, you’re virtually exposed to a situation that causes you anxiety, so you can learn to tolerate it in a safe setting. Virtual reality exposure has proven especially helpful for soldiers, first responders, and others who have PTSD.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that helps your brain learn to process information in a new way. With eye movements similar to those in REM sleep, your brain can be changed, so the feared object, situation, or event is far less distressing to you. This type of therapy has been helpful for people with PTSD, panic disorder, or phobias such as social anxiety disorder.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis most associated with psychoanalytic therapy. Pioneered by Sigmund Freud, psychoanalytic therapy involved lying down on a couch after being hypnotized and speaking about things in your subconscious to a therapist. It’s sometimes also been referred to as psychodynamic therapy.

Hypnosis is now rarely used as therapy for anxiety disorders. However, it's sometimes used in conjunction with another therapy, such as CBT. In hypnotherapy, the therapist works with you while you're in a state of deep relaxation. This sometimes makes it easier to face and reevaluate your fears.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy is one of the shortest types of anxiety therapy. Treatment typically lasts no more than 16 weeks, and the goal is to resolve conflicts within current interpersonal relationships. 

If your anxiety is most evident in your social, family, or romantic relationships, interpersonal therapy might be right for you. Also, if you're experiencing symptoms of depression, this method may help you in the same general ways. This type of therapy has also been used extensively for other mental health conditions, mood disorders, eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, and bipolar disorder.

Relaxation Techniques

People who live with anxiety can benefit from healthy ways to relax. No matter what type of therapy you choose, relaxation techniques can enhance the effects. Some of these techniques include meditation, mindfulness, systematic muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and visualization of positive outcomes. Not only are these excellent ways to help with anxiety, they have the added benefit of being good for your physical health.

There Is An Anxiety Treatment That Will Work For You

Choosing the Right Anxiety Therapy

You may find it difficult to decide which of these therapies will work best for you. After all, you've only had a brief introduction to each type of anxiety therapy. Still, you have to start somewhere. You can begin by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How urgent are my anxiety issues?
  • Do I have limited time and money for therapy?
  • Do I want to work out specific anxiety issues or deal with general patterns of anxiety?
  • Do I feel comfortable discussing my problems one-on-one or in a group?
  • Would my life be easier to manage if I had more skills to rely on?
  • Do I have more confidence in talk therapies or mind-body therapies?
  • Which type of therapy sparks my interest most?

With so many options available, you may have to use a trial-and-error process to find out what works best for you. That said, unless you commit to staying in treatment long enough to see results, you won't know whether the therapy you've tried has had a chance to work. If you're trying multiple approaches, be sure to give each one enough time. Also, you'll need to trust that your therapist will choose the approach that works best for you based on your responsiveness and progress in previous sessions. That's why it's so important to choose the right professional to support you.

Choosing A Professional For Anxiety Therapy

If, after reading this article, you're still not sure which type of therapy is best for you, you can begin your quest by choosing a therapist. When you start working with a licensed therapist, they can help you identify the source(s) and objects of your anxiety. Then, they'll be able to explain the type of anxiety you have, whether it's generalized anxiety disorder, a phobia, or another related mental health issue. With this information, you'll be able to work together to develop a treatment plan.

What if the therapist you choose doesn't offer the type of therapy you think you need? In this case, you may need to choose another therapist based on your specific type of anxiety or the treatment method you prefer. You might want to consider a therapist who specializes in general anxiety and uses a mix of several different methods as needed. However, if you don't want to switch, you don't have to. It's okay to stick with your current therapist if you feel comfortable with them and are confident they can help you.

How to Cope With Anxiety in the Meantime

There's a lot of work that goes into managing anxiety, and some of it happens at home. Here are some tips that will help you cope when your therapist isn't around to guide you through exercises.

Embrace Acceptance and Evaluate Your Situation

Anxiety can make us want to run, but peace can be found in the basic premise of acceptance. When we embrace the situation and accept what is happening, we can better evaluate what's going on around and within us. What are the outcomes? What's going to happen? Calmly look at the big picture. In most situations, you'll find there's nothing to be extremely nervous about. This perspective can help calm down your anxiety when it becomes overwhelming.

Take a Break

Anxiety is a mental health condition that needs to be taken seriously. If you need to take a break because your anxiety is getting to you, know that it's okay to take a break. Sit down and take some time to meditate or engage in deep breathing exercises. Try to bring yourself back to a calm, grounded state. When anxiety becomes too much, centering yourself and resting for at least a few minutes can make it much easier to get through the day.

Note: Know that moderate to severe complications of anxiety can result in physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, hyperventilation, and sweating. If you or someone you know are experiencing such symptoms, reach out for help immediately.

Consider Online Therapy

If you live in a large city, there are probably many local therapists to choose from. However, you may have fewer options in a small town or rural community. Either way, you might want to consider an affordable online therapy platform like BetterHelp.com, where you can connect with thousands of licensed therapists who have different specialties, methods, and treatment styles. Online therapy is accessible and convenient. You can schedule appointments around your busy schedule without needing to drive to a physical office or wait in line. There are also different modalities to reach out to a licensed counselor, such as phone calls and live messaging. This can be a great step into mental health care if you are uncertain about seeing a therapist in person.

As mentioned above, online therapy is a great way to receive mental health care if such resources are not offered in your area, or if you are not comfortable attending traditional therapy. A study published in 2016 found that computer-based therapy for anxiety is as effective for children and adolescents as traditional therapy. Another study published in 2018 found that 70% of individuals who participated in internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) reported a significant reduction of negative symptoms, as well as high levels of recovery and satisfaction with the program. Around 60% of the participants completed the program, and half of the participants noted that mindfulness therapeutic techniques were as effective as CBT.

When you're ready to get started, all you have to do is take a quick online questionnaire. Furthermore, you don't have to worry about waiting weeks or months or weeks before your first appointment. You'll be able to connect with them online or on the phone at your convenience. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I have been working with Rebecca for a couple of months now. When I signed up for counseling I was going through anxiety, panic attacks and depression and had hit a real low point. I had become overwhelmed by a complex life situation that I just couldn't figure out and felt I needed professional help. Rebecca has made a huge difference and continues to make a positive impact on my recovery. She is able to both listen and prompt with thought provoking and challenging questions to help us get to the heart of the matter and start to unpick things from there. She emphasizes and encourages self care and I feel so much more healthy and balanced as a result. We chat once a week and the flexibility of phone sessions and a wide variety of appointment times means I can fit around my schedule. Rebecca also encouraged me to journal regularly and will respond to messages promptly so I know I have support there when I need it. I regularly receive articles that relate to my situation or techniques of dealing with stressful situations. I feel Rebecca understands and cares and would be happy to recommend her."

"I have had many therapists in past 10 years and they have all been helpful, but my experience with Lauren has been transformative. She is bold when necessary and honest, but she always wants to let you make the choices you choose. She always wants you to be healthy first and foremost. She provides goal settings, cognitive behavioral therapy, help with anxiety and will be honest if more support is needed than just online therapy."

Conclusion / Parting Thoughts

Anxiety can dramatically impact your life, but it doesn't have to stop you from living. Free yourself from stress and fear by learning more about the options at your disposal. Do more research on the options available to you. Failure to get treatment can just make anxiety worse. If you think you suffer from clinical anxiety, reach out to a qualified mental health professional who can help you implement these changes.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

Which type of therapy is best for anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered by mental health professionals one of the best treatment options for various anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s also endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association for treating anxiety from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

What are the 3 types of therapy?

You may have heard that there are only 3 types of therapy for anxiety. However, there are several therapy options that provide effective treatment. For example, if you have specific phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you might do best with exposure response therapy. Exposure therapy is the most widely used therapy for these diagnoses. It was originally developed as a way for those with compulsive behaviors and urges to avoid having to take medication and to be able to manage distressing symptoms.

On the other hand, DBT or CBT might be best for someone with general anxiety. For example, DBT focuses on targeting behavior and learning powerful skills that are highly effective in treating behavior head on in an individual or group setting.

What are the different types of treatments for anxiety?

There are various types of treatments for anxiety, including talk therapies, skills training, psychodynamic therapy, mind-body therapies, desensitization techniques, and much more

What do therapists do for anxiety?

Therapists use practical techniques that patients can use in real life to identify patterns and interpersonal issues. Although there is no quick fix for anxiety of any severity, adults can get help through therapeutic approaches such as learning to express emotions healthily, interpersonal effectiveness skills, creating realistic thoughts, and more. Remember, therapy takes practice, and there’s no wrong way to heal. You may even feel worse before you feel better.

What is CBT therapy?

Also known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT is a type of cognitive therapy that focuses on how thoughts influence behavior (hence the “behavioral” part). A typical CBT therapy session may involve a therapist helping the patient shift their negative thinking patterns into positive ones to address the problem they are facing. The idea is that you change behavior by changing the thoughts behind the behavior. 

Aside from being used to treat anxiety from various anxiety disorders, CBT can be used to treat borderline personality disorder and other psychiatric disorders like major depression. The National Institute of Mental Health considers CBT one of the best types of therapy to treat anxiety disorders.

What is the most effective therapy?

The most effective therapy for anxiety disorder is a type of cognitive therapy known as CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Is anxiety a mental disorder?

Anxiety is a mental health condition, generally referred to as “general anxiety disorder” (GAD). There are also other types of anxiety disorders such as OCD, phobias, and social anxiety. You can find a diagnosis by speaking to a specialist in anxiety.

The basic premise of anxiety is that it is a condition that impacts the life of the person with it negatively. Peer-reviewed studies show that anxiety is extremely common in our society. It can be caused by unresolved grief, traumatic experiences, another mental health condition, PTSD, and many other causes.

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