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Julia Di Giacomo, LCSW
Anxiety can run the full range from day-to-day stress, to ongoing anxiety, extreme anxiety or panic. For many, the anxiety they experience can impede their ability to manage their daily activities and interfere with their ability to work, meet their goals and to make progress towards the life they want to live. In fact, some individuals can become so overwhelmed by their anxiety that they cannot attain a sense of wellbeing. At times, anxiety can make individuals feel so uncomfortable that they become irritable and aggressive, and these emotions negatively impact their relationships with others. Therefore, the anxiety becomes crippling as it seeps into every area of their life, and they seek treatment to help manage it. Learning what triggers anxiety and how to manage it is necessary in order to achieve treatment goals and obtain optimal mental health functioning.
A portion of this group will provide psychoeducation on the triggers and origins of anxiety. Once group members become aware of the triggers and origins to their anxiety the group can begin to normalize the experience and explore how they are coping. The group will identify coping into two categories of healthy and non-healthy coping and will decide if some of their coping can be swapped out for better choices. The next portion of the group will focus on skills building in which members are introduced to tools and techniques such as grounding techniques which help them to “ground” themselves when feeling anxious so they can be mindful and present. This portion will also help identify the thoughts that precipitate the anxiety and ways to reframe the thoughts so that the anxiety is lessened. The member will focus on their thought patterns and be able to identify which patterns are most troublesome for them and in which environment they show up. The more the members can anticipate the environment that triggers their anxiety and the thoughts that will be experienced the more they can prepare themselves for the triggering environment and consider ways to counterattack the negative self-talk.
It is expected that the members in this group are also in individual therapy and are self-aware to know that they suffer from anxiety. Members must also know that their current way of thinking, perceiving, coping with their anxiety is not optimal and they are not effectively managing it. Members must be open to learning new tools, techniques in order to improve the way they manage their anxiety and their overall quality of life.
Session 1: Introduction
Group members introduce themselves to one another, ice breakers, setting up of ground rules and boundaries, limits of confidentiality and defining a safe space.
Session 2: Name your anxiety
Discussion will focus on group members first experience with anxiety- where were they? How long ago? Does it only happen in those situations? Has the anxiety expanded? Where does it happen now? How often, daily? Weekly? What happens to your body? What is going through your mind? Can you identify with another group member? Themes among the group?
Session 3: Triggers
Group members will discuss what makes them anxious? Is their anxiety connected to a person, thing, social situation, past experience, or does it occur anywhere in general? Is there another group member who is saying the same thing? What are the themes in the group?
Session 4: Thoughts
What are you thinking when you become anxious? Can you define whether these thoughts precipitated the anxiety, or did they immediately follow the anxiety? What is your self-talk when you become anxious? Members will share some of what they say to themselves during anxious moments. Members will identify themes and will identify if another group member is saying some of the things that they say.
Session 5: Coping
Group members will identify healthy coping versus non healthy coping. Group members will be asked to disclose how they cope with their anxiety and will be asked to define their coping as either healthy or non-healthy. The other group members will be allowed to provide feedback and challenge the way the members define their coping. The group will be asked to define themes of the ways members cope and to suggest alternative ways to cope that may be more effective.
Session 6: Grounding
The group will be provided with psycho-education regarding grounding techniques and will be asked to identify if they have ever tried any of the techniques. Group members will practice some of the techniques on themselves and on each other. Group member will then provide a description of the benefits they experienced as a result of the ground techniques. Did it help them to be more mindful, aware and present? Did it help to calm them down? If so, how so? Group members will be asked to try one of the methods every time they become anxious and provide feedback to the group during the following session.
Session 7: Follow-up on Grounding techniques
What have the members tried? How has it helped? Has their anxiety improved? If so, in what way? Does their anxiety still feel like it has control over them? Do they feel better able to manage the things that trigger the anxiety? If so, how? Themes among group members.
Session 8: Reframe
Using a CBT approach and reflecting back on the thought patterns that were identified in session 4 the group members will work on ways that they can reframe those thoughts so that they produce a better feeling and ultimately better experiences. Group memebrs will practice on reframing their own thoughts first and then practice on helping their peers reframe their thoughts. Are some thoughts easier to reframe than others?
Session 9: Coping Part 2
Group members will be asked to identify ways in which their coping has changed? What do they practice now that they did not before? What have they given up? Do the members thinks their coping is healthier now than it was during session 4? If so, how? What has helped them to shift the way they cope? Do they feel they can still improve? If so, how?
Appreciation for process and individual group members. Who did they connect with? What have they learned? How has group helped? What are the take aways? How will this benefit them in their individual therapy?