Panic is severe anxiety with extreme fear that comes on unexpectedly and makes a person feel “out of control.” In the latest copy of the Psychotherapy Net Worker, Dr. Reid Wilson, at the UNC School of Medicine discusses his successful exposure practice and protocol. Counselors at Behavioral Sciences of Alabama have also found this protocol to be very effective and have been practicing this type of exposure for many years.
Patients with panic have learned to rely on distorted information, called a fear structure, that causes them considerable stress as well as the seeming inability to overcome the fear. Wilson’s model places more emphasis on the patient’s relationship with their own anxiety, doubts, and distress. Key to his theory is not giving clients reassurance and comfort about the specific aspects of their anxiety, but instead, helping them find a new way to relate to their uncertainty and discomfort.
Rather than be intimidated by their messages of fear, patients are taught new responses regarding feared situations. They replace responses such as “I want this feeling to stop” to thoughts such as “This is hard and I want it!,” or “I can take the hit!” In addition, the client learns to take responsibility for the exposure sessions. And it works! Patients create a hierarchy of individual goals and outcomes that help them to work through the therapy. Here at Behavioral Sciences, we use the book written by Dr. David Barnhart entitled, Write Your Fears Away: Writing worst-case scenarios to reduce anxiety. Our patients also learn to say–“Bring it on!”
Lee Ann Penman, M.A.
National Certified Counselor