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A guide to training in anxiety

Anxiety – which can be defined as a feeling of worry or fear in response to any of a wide range of situations – has long been very common in the UK. According to the Mental Health Foundation, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the country in 2013, and the one-week prevalence of generalised anxiety in England is 6.6%.

It is frankly no wonder, then, that an entire industry has sprung up around the provision of treatments aimed at helping people to manage their anxiety and the associated symptoms.

It is important to be clear, however, about exactly when and how anxiety is a normal and understandable response, and in what circumstances anxiety can be considered a disorder requiring the attention and intervention of psychological professionals.

Anxiety, in and of itself, is a normal human response to stressful situations in one’s life. For many of us, anxiety is a temporary feeling that passes whenever given stressful circumstances pass – but for great numbers of us, this sadly may not the case.

When someone feels constantly anxious on a day-to-day basis and they cannot remember when they last felt relaxed, this can have a detrimental effect on their all-round mental health, and impair their ability to function in various areas of their lives, such as at work, school and/or social situations.

If, then, you are interested in becoming a professional in the field of treating anxiety disorders such as generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorders and social anxiety disorders, what do you need to know about how to train to be an anxiety therapist?

What steps are involved in becoming a psychotherapist?

The exact path that you take in anxiety training and the gaining of relevant experience will depend on such factors as the specific anxiety disorders you wish to treat, the kinds of therapies you are interested in training in, and perhaps your existing background.

Nonetheless, psychotherapy for anxiety disorders is based on certain consistent, core principles. Psychotherapy is a collaborative process, whereby the psychologist helps the patient to identify particular concerns and develop the skills and techniques that will enable them to better cope with their anxiety.

There are various types of therapy that are potentially relevant to the treatment of anxiety disorders, ranging from counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to clinical hypnotherapy and compassion-focused therapy (CFT).

As you might expect, being an effective psychological professional treating anxiety does not just come down to formalised training. Skills that will aid you in succeeding in this field include (and are not limited to) being an excellent communicator, having a keen awareness of people and their behaviour, and having the ability to relate to a wide range of people.

Nonetheless, according to the NHS, those aspiring to practise as adult psychotherapists are required to undertake appropriate recognised training. This will usually be an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, although it will also greatly help if the person wishing to carry out this role is already a qualified and experienced healthcare practitioner, such as a psychiatrist, mental health nurse or social worker.

It normally takes four years to formally train in psychotherapy, with study taking place alongside clinical training under supervision. The National Careers Service advises that would-be psychotherapists looking to undertake a relevant course make sure their chosen course is recognised by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy, the British Psychoanalytic Council, or the Association of Child Psychotherapists.

Psychotherapists are not, of course, the only psychological professionals who work with anxiety patients. Psychological wellbeing practitioners (PWPs), for example, are responsible for assessing and supporting people with common mental health problems – such as anxiety disorders – as they manage their own recovery.

Those interested in a PWP role can take the first step to training for it by applying for a post as a trainee or apprentice PWP in an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. If you are successful with your application, you will then undertake an accredited IATP training course, usually consisting of 45 days’ academic work alongside supervised practice over an academic year.

How nscience can assist you in building your skill set

Whatever the nature of your own career and existing skills as a mental health professional serving the needs of anxiety patients, you will be thankful for having access to in-depth resources that will further help guide you on your training journey. After all, the development of a psychotherapist, psychologist, counsellor or psychiatrist is a necessarily ongoing process.

Here at nscience, we give psychological professionals the benefit of a broad range of anxiety-related video courses and webinars, which they can take on to aid their efforts to become more effective in their work. If you have any further questions about the nature, content and delivery of our courses, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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