Caroline came to see me four years ago with high anxiety levels, visible immediately in her sore chewed fingernails and cuticles. To save her fingers from more damage, as she shared with me a long list of worries, I offered a soft toy (from my therapeutic collection) to hold. She chose a spotty dog which became a silent witness (stroked gently by her) to many of our future sessions.

The anxiety was a result of overwhelming and continuous feelings of loss as a result of the death of her mother a few years before.  Her father had died whilst she was young and she remained an only child.  There were few others to truly share her grief.  The day-to-day worries were a distraction and defence against her real enemy – loss of the greatest love of her life. 

The first few months of her psychotherapy provided symptomatic relief through cognitive strategies to manage her day-to-day anxieties, then I invited her to join one of my therapy groups which she attended for a couple of years.  The Group held her seemingly endless grief, and she found understanding from their loss of parents (either through death or estrangement).  I had a touching message from her husband after she left therapy, thanking me for returning his wife to him!

Anxiety is a regular visitor at my door brought along by clients to be ‘dealt with’ so they can begin to enjoy life again.  In my experience, anxiety is often a symptom of deeper historic issues, often buried from the conscious mind as protection.  These issues could be unresolved grief, disrupted childhood attachment, or another traumatic experience.  I aim to bring the choice to a client’s awareness – to continue holding onto anxiety as a false protector, or to face the forgotten or discounted emotions with the support of another (the therapist) or others (the therapy group).

“Anxiety is the enemy of enjoyment”. - Holmes, J. 2001. The Search for the Secure Base: Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy. Brunner-Routledge
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