Overcoming Anxiety with TA therapy

The article below is a version of the video interview I gave above.

What is your experience working with people who are dealing with anxiety?

Clients with anxiety experience symptoms both in the mind and the body. Initially, the somatic bodily symptoms dominate clients who may have previously consulted medical doctors and specialists before coming for psychotherapy – often as a last resort.

The client’s experience of the somatic and sensory symptoms are explored in therapy first with the discussion focusing on the part of the body which is ‘anxious’ and attempting to understand the ‘language’ or hidden message the symptom(s) is trying to communicate to the client.

The therapist is attempting to build bridges between the symptoms in the client’s body by encouraging them to use metaphorical and imaginative descriptions from their mind to verbalise the emotional experiences contained in the symptoms found in the body.

This removes the fear and avoidance of symptoms found in the client’s body replacing these with curiosity to discover when symptoms first appeared and what was happening in the client’s early life and relationships at the time. The body is no longer an enemy in TA therapy but a vital source of information.

In TA (Transactional Analysis) therapy, a person develops a Life Story or Script written early in life using the childhood messages received from their parents about how to live their lives and how to gain love and acceptance in relationships.

With anxiety, the body gives therapists important ‘clues’ to understanding clients’ life scripts. In the emerging therapeutic relationship between myself and my clients, I begin to notice the feelings I experience in my own body whilst working with clients which can also give important ‘clues’ to help clients verbalise traumatic experiences. This is called counter-transference.

Could you explain more how TA therapy can help with anxiety?

As well as Life Scripts, in TA (Transactional Analysis) therapy the personality is made up of three parts or ego-states, Parent, Adult and Child.

The Parent ego-state is formed from the underlying beliefs and injunctions or messages we learned as children from our parents or significant people, the Adult ego-state is the logical part that makes decisions in the present moment based on facts, and the Child part is formed from our actual childhood experiences and interactions with our parents and other significant people who cared for us.

Anxiety is often manifested or ‘remembered’ in the bodies of clients as a result of traumatic experiences or dysfunctional relationships with parents or caregivers early in life. It can also arise when a client may have tried unsuccessfully in childhood to comply with a parent’s negative instructions or messages in order to be loved and accepted, for example, “Be Strong/Be Perfect/Do Your Best” and they may have carried it with them into later life.

In TA therapy, clients can learn to ‘make friends’ with their bodies and understand how their often negative Life Scripts written in early childhood have impacted their lives emotionally and physically in their bodies. This new-found knowledge empowers the Adult ego-state to make new decisions about the lives they want to lead and enables clients to be compassionate towards themselves.

What advice would you give to someone who is dealing with anxiety?

  1. The first piece of advice I would give is to seek support. Whether it’s through talking with friends and family, joining a support group, or seeking the help of a qualified therapist, it’s important to have a support system in place to help you manage your symptoms and guards against feeling socially isolated.
  2. The second piece of advice is to practise self-care. This means taking care of your physical health through exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep, as well as engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

Are there other strategies that you use in therapy to help individuals deal with anxiety?

Yes, another technique is to use mindfulness to help clients become more present in the moment and develop greater self-awareness and acceptance of their thoughts and emotions. We might use techniques such as meditation or deep breathing exercises to help clients feel more grounded and calm.

How long does treatment for anxiety typically last, and when should someone consider seeking professional help?

The length of treatment for anxiety can vary depending on the client and the severity of their symptoms. However, research has shown that TA therapy can be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety through greater self-awareness.

It’s important to seek professional help if someone is experiencing symptoms of anxiety that are interfering with their daily life.

This might include symptoms such as persistent worry, fear or panic attacks, avoidance of certain situations or activities, or physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, or rapid heartbeat.

Are there any particular challenges that you’ve encountered in helping clients deal with anxiety?

One challenge is that anxiety can be a very individual experience, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to tailor the therapy to the client’s specific needs and circumstances.

Another challenge is that anxiety can be a very complex issue, and there may be underlying factors such as trauma or medical conditions that need to be addressed in order to fully manage symptoms.

It’s important to take a holistic approach and work with the client to identify and address all the factors that may be contributing to their anxiety.

 Is there anything else you’d like to share about overcoming anxiety?

Yes, even though anxiety is increasing in our changing society, it is a common and treatable condition.

With the right support and tools, it’s possible to manage and overcome anxiety and live a fulfilling life. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, and remember that you’re not alone.