What Therapy Helps With Anxiety?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Have symptoms of anxiety and want to try therapy? Or already diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and not sure what talk therapy is for you?

Talk therapy and anxiety

Anxiety is driven by negative thoughts that are illogic and cause fear. Your brain constantly overthinks, searching for something else to be anxious about.

More traditional types of therapy, like psychodynamic therapy and psychoanalysis, focus on looking to your past to discover unresolved traumas and dysfunctional patterns.

It’s true that past trauma can be the driving reason you have anxiety, and at some point identifying and processing past trauma is crucial. And that these sorts of therapy can help some people with anxiety.

But if you have undiagnosed complex PTSD, for example, this sort of therapy could give your mind more to panic about, triggering even more anxiety and fear.

Other, more modern therapies that focus on stablising your thinking and emotions can be a better starting point. Past-driven therapies can be something to then consider when you are more in control of your response to the world around you.

What types of therapy work best for anxiety and anxiety disorder?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

This the most recommended therapy for anxiety at the current time, often offered by the NHS, and is evidence-based to help. With CBT therapy you touch only lightly on your past. The rest of this short-term therapy is spent looking at your patterns of thinking, and using tools to have more balanced thoughts that lead to behaviours that make you feel better, not worse.

Exposure therapy

Another popular treatment if your anxiety is connected to a certain thing, such as intrusive thoughts around a certain topic, or if it’s part of having OCD. It is pretty much as it sounds. Bit by bit you are supported to raise your tolerance for the things that are your triggers, the idea being that they lose their power over you.

Clinical hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy can be something that helps you feel calmer. You are not put in a trance, and you never don’t know what’s going on -- these are myths perpeturated by stage hypnotists. Clinical hypnotherapy relaxes you enough you can access your true thoughts and feelings, and work to change unhelpful beliefs.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT)

Mindfulness is about learning to be fully in the present moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings. The practice of mindfulness mediation is popular for helping anxiety, and this sort of therapy integrates it with cognitive therapy. You learn to become more and more aware of your thoughts and feelings, but less judgemental. When you stop trying to always avoid your thoughts, you can then choose to correct them.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

also integrates elements of mindfulness, and there is some evidence now to support its use for anxiety. It’s aim is to help you develop what it calls ‘psychological flexibility’. You work to accept instead of fight against the things you can’t control, then recognise and commit to taking action around the things you can improve.

Do I have to go to therapy if I have anxiety?

It’s your life, you don’t have to do anything. And there are forms of self-help you can of course do, like exercise, self-care, and mindfulness meditation.

But anxiety can be hard to escape alone, simply as your mind is the issue, and you are stuck in its perspective.

Left to fester, straightforward anxiety can soon become anxiety disorder, which is more debilitating and harder to treat.

A therapist can show you other perspectives that your anxiety is blinding you to, teach you tools to navigate your anxiety, and help you think in new ways that mean you are in charge, not your anxiety.

Time to finally stop being controlled by anxiety? Book a therapist who specialises in anxiety now, and make this the week you start moving forward.


Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and writer. She also runs a consultancy helping people find their perfect therapy and therapist. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy

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