Life Free of Anxiety, with Erica & Dr. Charles Barr of CHAANGE

Anxiety Treatment & Therapy Options Explained

October 18, 2023 CHAANGE, Inc, with Erica & Dr. Charles Barr Season 1 Episode 8
Life Free of Anxiety, with Erica & Dr. Charles Barr of CHAANGE
Anxiety Treatment & Therapy Options Explained
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
  • In this episode, Dr. Barr and Erica discuss different therapy options for treating anxiety, including EMDR, talk therapy/counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), breathing retraining, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and exposure therapy.
  • Erica shares her personal experience trying EMDR and talk therapy, which provided some benefits but did not fully resolve her anxiety symptoms.
  • Dr. Barr explains how CBT works to identify and change unhelpful thought patterns that can trigger anxiety. He also discusses the importance of practicing relaxation techniques like controlled breathing.
  • Mindfulness is introduced as a way to observe anxious thoughts without reacting to them. Dr. Barr uses the metaphor of sitting by a river and watching thoughts float by.
  • Exposure therapy is explained as a way to gradually face feared situations in a controlled, safe setting. Erica describes her experience using exposure therapy to overcome her fear of elevators.
  • They emphasize the need to find an approach that addresses both the mental and physical aspects of anxiety. A combination of CBT, breathing exercises, and exposure therapy worked best for Erica.
  • Dr. Barr explains how he uses the CHAANGE Anxiety Treatment Program. The goal is to equip the person with tools to manage their anxiety.
  • We end by stressing the importance of not giving up and finding an anxiety treatment plan that works for you. With practice, you can overcome anxious thoughts and retrain your mind and body.

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[00:00:00] Erica: Hi there. Thanks so much for joining us on the Life Free of Anxiety podcast. I'm Erica, and maybe this is your first time listening, uh, checking us out. Thanks so much for being here. We love having you. Today, Dr. Charles Barr, a licensed clinical therapist who is the regular co-host of this show is going to be breaking down therapies used to treat anxiety. 

I'm going to weigh in with some things that I've tried out, and he's going to weigh in on his expertise, and we're both going to weigh in on what actually worked for us to cure our anxiety. And also wanted to let you know, you can always connect with us. We'd love to hear from you on either Facebook or Instagram.

Life Free of Anxiety is our name. And you can also shoot me an email at All right, let's get to it.




[00:00:46] Erica: Welcome to the Life Free of Anxiety Podcast, where each week we'll bring you another discussion to help you on your way to overcoming your fears. I'm Erica and together with Dr. Charles Barr, a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in anxiety, we'll be your guides on this journey. Because you are not broken, you are not alone. 

And you are on your way to living a life free of anxiety.  


[00:01:21] Dr. Barr: Today, what we want to talk about is the different kinds of therapies that are out there. There's a lot of many of them. Yes, there are. I was counting. I think I got up to like 24 and there's probably more than that.

It would get very specific. So we're not going to we're not going to talk about all of them. We're just going to talk about some of the more popular ones and the ones that probably most of our listeners have. Uh, experienced in one form or another. Hmm. Um, well, why don't we start, Erica, by, by, uh, let me ask you, what kinds of therapies have you tried over, uh, the years to try to get over this?


[00:02:01] Erica: Yeah, um, I wouldn't say I've tried 24, but I would, I was going to say 24? I hope not. Um, I would say that I've tried many years of certain therapies, though. So, um. I know I, I definitely did try EMDR and before I tried EMDR, which is eye movement. I can't even say it.

You say it. 


[00:02:25] Dr. Barr: Eye Movement Desensitization. Uh, oh, I forgot what... retraining? 


[00:02:30] Erica: I'm gonna look this up. Um, reprocessing. It's reprocessing. Reprocessing. Okay. Good eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Oh, okay. So I did that. Um, and I did a lot of research before I went in, and so I was really hopeful that, um, that this is what was going to cure me.

Um, I, I read a book on it. I knew it was controversial, but I had a lot of hope in it. Um, and so I, I specifically found a local EMDR therapist, and, um, I was really into starting right away with the lights. I thought the lights were gonna really change things for me. And I, I think it is actually effective, from what I've heard, for some people.

I mean, I think that, um, this isn't to knock any sort of therapy or to say that doesn't work, because if it worked for you, You know, I'm so happy for you, but my experience was, um, I wanted to, you know, look at the, I guess you're, the idea is that you are looking at, um, well, let's see, what is the, the little.

thing Google says right here. It's a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Basically, the idea is to kind of the therapist will hold out two lights or they'll use their hand and you will kind of or a stylus of some kind.

Yes. And you'll follow them that with your eyes. And the idea is that you are there. It's, it's kind of using the idea that our, our brains are like computers and we are moving files. from one place to another in order to heal and work through things. Does, is that a good enough explanation? 


[00:04:25] Dr. Barr: Actually, that's a, that's a pretty good, that's a pretty good analogy.

It's been a while. And, and so what's, what's happening is, uh, the therapist has your eyes going back at a certain frequent, back and forth at a certain frequency. Okay. And you're to be tracking that back and forth, back and forth, not necessarily moving your head, moving your eyes. Yes. Uh, which, which means that, uh, you're re, that's, that's like reprocessing what the thought is that you just named.

So they, uh, it seems that it's particularly good for, uh, traumatic instances. Uh, if, if you've had a traumatic event in your life, um, then it seems particularly good for that to be able to, uh, think about that event. That is a very upsetting event to you, and then to do the reprocessing, they'll have you do the reprocessing, and then, uh, then what is the next thought that comes?

And so, there, there, you're moving from thought to thought to thought to thought, and then reprocessing whatever that is, but you're not really delving into all the emotional, um, parts of what that thought is. It may be a very upsetting event that you thought of. You're moving your eyes back and forth.

You're not... Uh, talking any more about it or explaining about it or that kind of thing. You're, you're just reprocessing that. Yes. Um, and, uh, can be your, like you said at the first, you know, if it works for you, fantastic. And I've seen it work very well, very, very well for, uh, Some of my clients, uh, who have tried it for, um, traumatic events.

And, um, so, um, I think it definitely has a place in the, the continuum of therapy and, uh, was rather an ingenious, uh, find. Yeah. And, and I believe that, um, uh, the founder of EMDR, uh, had had some, uh, traumatic event happen to her and she was thinking about that. While she was watching, I can't remember if it was a ping pong game or a tennis match, and all of a sudden she felt better.

It's like, what just happened here? 


[00:06:54] Erica: Something about the eyes moving back and forth is also supposed to be very relaxing. 


[00:06:59] Dr. Barr: That's right. And, and it's, like you said, it's like it's moving files from the emotional center, maybe over to a storage container. Yeah. 


[00:07:12] Erica: So that's a good way to say that. There's different techniques with it too.

Like if the event is too traumatic, you can imagine yourself watching it on TV or being a little farther away. So they use distance techniques. There was also quite a bit of, um, talk therapy that came along with it that I was kind of surprised about. Um, different ideas and concepts of the family of parts, uh, each part of you, you know, kind of not talking Maybe growing in the way it should have, maybe something stayed young and you want to contact that part or, um, there was just different things that I didn't find that I connected with.

I think I was very traumatized from the event that I, uh, shared openly when I had my first horrible panic attack from Um, smoking pot and becoming very out of control. Um, that's basically what I was considering my very traumatic event. So, for me to reprocess that, maybe, maybe I was able to kind of normalize that in my mind of, okay, it's not as scary by the time I left.

But as far as getting rid of my symptoms. Um, I was not symptom free by any means when I left. I was not taking the elevator at her office. I was taking the stairs the entire time. Um, so after that, I kind of did, um, and she did introduce me to breathing exercises, which I still use some of hers to this day because she recorded a shorter one for me.

And when I don't have a lot of time, I use hers. Um, so that was huge because I didn't know about. breathing and relaxation. I only knew about meditation, which I thought I don't even know what that is or how to do it. Um, I was excited to learn that you can breathe and relax your body without doing anything mystical or, um, you know, and I just, you know, it wasn't something I was interested in if it wasn't something very straightforward, which, um, she introduced me to very straightforward breathing.

Okay. So. Very good. Yeah. And I also had a counselor that I talked, um, about my anxiety with, and it was mostly a talk therapy thing. And that just really did a lot of nothing, um. It's, to me, you know, the, I think the exciting thing about anxiety is that you don't, I mean, as far as how I got better, I didn't, Dr.

Barr, you are my counselor. I don't feel like I've even told you that much about my history. I feel like I, like, you know, some stuff.  


[00:09:39] Dr. Barr: I think that's correct. Yeah, like, you know, maybe my I don't know all the ins and outs of the workings of your personality. 


[00:09:45] Erica: In my childhood and all that. I've really dug deep with some counselors where I've I told him everything and with you, I feel like you might know my parents are divorced and you might know a few things, but that's the beauty of how I got better was that I didn't really have to get into all of that again, because for me it wasn't helpful.

It was, it was helpful. Therapy and talk therapy to me is just so helpful in growing, um, as a person and learning your, your weaknesses, you know, learning your strengths, all that stuff. I think it's so important, has such an important place. But for me, it never, went together with Getting Better Anxiety Wise?


[00:10:28] Dr. Barr: Well, that's, that's part of why, um, the kind of therapy we did together, uh, is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And, um, it is designed to try to give you a set of tools. There are certain, uh, tools that you need in your toolkit to be able to defeat anxiety. Uh, because, um, anxiety is, it's a very complex disorder and once it starts, it takes on a life of its own.

And so, uh, I, I have many, many people who have tried various other therapies before they get to me and they are, they are, have benefited from the therapy. It's not that the therapy was bad. It was good therapy in many cases, and they learned a lot about themselves, and they benefited greatly from it. Uh, but most of the benefit they get from that therapy...

comes after they've conquered their anxiety, then they know all of this other stuff about themselves. It's like you said, it's wonderful for growth and for knowing yourself and for being informed and having an examined life. Yeah. That's, that's wonderful and it has great benefits for you. But the problem is, is anxiety is encapsulated and it just runs on its own course and talk therapy often does not touch it at all.

Yes. So, and now, what kind of talk therapy are we talking about? Well, there's all kinds of talk therapies. There's, uh, client centered. Uh, therapy, there's psychodynamic therapy, there's interpersonal therapy, um, you know, all kinds of different theories within the psychoanalysis group, um, uh, of course, there's couples therapy and there's family therapy if you're having, you know, your whole family needs to be in there.

So there's all kinds of, of, uh, traditional talk therapies and they can all be very good. Um, the, the one thing that our research shows over time is that, uh, All forms of therapy can be helpful, uh, as long as you're, you're trying to aim at the right place. Um, and so we're trying to aim at the right place by doing the cognitive behavioral therapy.

And, um, along with that, we do the breathing retraining. We do the relaxation training. Um, we, you know, one of the, the buzzwords in psychology now is mindfulness.  


[00:13:08] Erica: Yes, I was just gonna ask you about mindfulness. It is a buzzword. Yes, I'm hearing that everywhere. 


[00:13:14] Dr. Barr: That's right. Uh, it's a very popular term and it's a very useful, uh, construct, uh, a useful thing to learn how to do.

And it, it comes more out of our, the Eastern kind of thinking, maybe out of a Buddhist kind of thinking of, uh, Watching rather than than grabbing a hold of and so you, it's, uh, just very briefly and this doesn't do it justice, but to give our listeners a flavor, it would be like, um, I'm standing on the bank of a river and.

I feel compelled to pull everything out of the river that comes down the river. You know, so if there's a branch that comes down the river, I must grab a hold of that branch and haul it out of the river. Um, and no matter what it is that comes down the river, I have to hang on to it and see if I can't get it out of the river.

Um, mindfulness would be saying, well, no, just sit on the bank of the river and watch what goes down. You don't have to, you don't have to do anything about it, it's in the river, it's in the flow, just watch it and let it go. You can comment on it even, like, oh look, there goes a branch, oh look, there goes a rooftop, how did that get in there?

Um, what, what is that? You see, um, now the town that I grew up in when I was a little boy, uh, had a river in it. I grew up in a, uh, a town in Kentucky that had, um, the East Fork of the Kentucky River ran through it and we had some significant floods, uh, two or three times while I was there and the, the biggest of those floods, I remember standing on the riverbank watching Hmm.

A rooftop go, go by that had a little dog on top of it, um, which was heartbreaking. It's, it's absolutely heartbreaking, you know, uh, it's like, what, whatever happened to that little dog, you know, of course there's no way to know, um, but there's also no way to rescue that little dog in the middle of a flood.

Um, that's, that's probably the, one of the lower things on your priority list. And, um, so that, that compulsion or that feeling like you have, if it comes into your life, you have to deal with it. It's like, well, no, not necessarily you, you might just be able to comment on it and watch it. Let it go. Um, a person has a particular fear.

Let's say, um, a fear that they're going to hyperventilate. You know, what if I can't breathe? Um, so it's kind of like, well, that's a very scary thought. Um, that, that's an extremely scary thought, and that thought in itself is enough to trigger a panic attack. Mm hmm. You know, what if I can't breathe? All of a sudden, you start having difficulty breathing.

Yeah. Um, and so, one of the things that, that, um, I try to get my, my people to do, and I think I recommended this to you as well, is to, to step back from that, and the way you step back from that is by saying, so what? That's just a scary thought. I don't need to do that to myself. I can just watch that go by.

Mm hmm. It's like, wow, that was a scary thought. Look at that. So not engaging. It's sort of like that little dog on the house. It's like, well, that's very sad, you know, but I don't have to, I don't have to do anything about that. And it's like, there goes that really scary thought, and what if I can't breathe, and I, and I, um, And you just let it go on by.

So it's, it's a way of taking a step back. I think that's a simple way of talking about what mindfulness might look like.  


[00:17:13] Erica: Yeah, at my, um, women's gym, we had somebody, an actual therapist, come and, and do a mindfulness exercise with us. And it was, um, with a raisin, where we put a raisin in our mouth and noticed.

You know, how raisins are very, they've got all those lines in them and they're kind of soft and all the wrinkles. Yeah, the wrinkles, right? she wanted us to spend time kind of noticing that in our mouth and and She kind of went walked us through it. But that's that was the mindfulness. That was the only Mindfulness technique I'd ever really Scene that was like, that I've heard about touching a tree.

Yes. And, and noticing the tree bark as well in the lines on the tree and um, yes, that's right. Okay. So that's what mindfulness is. Okay. We got it. And what about cognitive therapy?  


[00:18:01] Dr. Barr: Well, okay. So, so in cognitive therapy, uh, what we do is we're treating