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Orlando Counselor Shares – The Importance of Practice In Anxiety Treatment

orlando cbt therapy for anxietyWe’ve all heard the adage “Practice Makes Perfect” and although we may never become perfect at something, practice almost always helps us to become better at whatever we are trying to learn or achieve. The same is true when we are attempting to change feelings of anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The “cognitive” part of CBT refers to teaching a person with anxiety new cognitions or new ways of thinking. This isn’t much different than learning something new in school or learning a new sport. You learn because your teacher or coach teaches you a new skill or gives you new information and the more you practice and repeat the newly learned skill, the easier it becomes as the repetition of the new skill begins to affect your memory processes. The same is true when a person with anxiety is taught to think differently. The new way of thinking gradually affects the brain’s neural pathways and helps the anxious person to begin thinking, behaving and feeling differently.

This takes commitment, work and practice, practice, practice.

CBT therapists won’t deny that anxious individuals have to work hard to get better. This work typically includes homework that the therapist assigns and the homework may include assignments that are intended to gradually desensitize the person with anxiety by having him or her do the very thing that causes him or her anxiety. This is the behavioral part of CBT.

In order for change to take place and anxiety to subside, these new ways of thinking and behaving must be practiced every day for 90 days or longer. With persistence and practice, the brain begins to accept these new, rational, realistic messages so that thought processes can be changed. It is the constant repetition of the newly learned material that helps permanent brain change to take place in anxious people and this takes time.

It’s important to remember that most people who have become proficient at something, whether this is a skill, a type of knowledge, a sport, or career, have had to first learn and then spend many hours practicing. For healthy thinking to become automatic, you will have to re-train your brain because you have probably spent many, many hours in your lifetime engaging in anxiety producing negative self-talk. This is where a CBT therapist comes in.

Learning to think less anxiously is a new skill and the process of learning is much like learning to swing a golf club. Just as you won’t swing the club very well when you’re first learning, your brain will have a difficult time thinking differently at first. But with continued effort and practice, your swing will become better just as your brain will begin to think fewer anxious thoughts until your new way of thinking becomes automatic. Thankfully, our way of thinking is very changeable but it takes commitment and practice to make changes in the way we think. Although these methods are challenging, it’s important to remember that CBT has been proven to be successful for many individuals with anxiety and committing to it can make a real difference in your life. As a matter of fact, one could consider CBT a natural way of changing brain chemistry in order to reduce anxiety symptoms. If you are struggling with anxiety, our trained, and highly skilled Orlando based CBT therapists at GroundWork Counseling are here to help. 

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