Working with anxiety is not easy. However, the latest developments in Neuroscience and models such as the Window of Tolerance, provide useful frameworks and exercises for helping clients build resilience and learn to self-regulate.
We have curated 10 videos to help, including practical advice from some of the world’s leading trauma therapists and teachers including Stephen Porges, Bessel van der Kolk, Peter Levine, Daniel Siegel and Tara Brach. We have also included some TikTok videos that may appeal to and help engage younger clients.
Do you have some short videos to add that you think would help other counsellors and therapists? Leave a comment in the comments section below or email us on email@example.com. We would love to hear from you!
1. Stephen Porges, PhD on Helping Clients Regulate Distressing Emotions (4:19)
Stephen Porges shares 2 ways we can help clients build emotional resilience.
In this video, Stephen Porges, PhD, addresses the question: Given the fact that we live in a stressful world, how do we build the resilience and resources to deal with it?
He shares two ways counsellors and therapists can resource clients to better cope with distress. These include: (1) Co-regulation and connectedness and (2) Self resourcing.
The first of these includes connecting with people, including through playing sports. The second includes learning to use the breath and positive memories / visualisations as powerful portals to regulate our own physiological states.
2. NICABM: How to Help a Client Come Back into Their Window of Tolerance with Bessel van der Kolk & Ruth Lanius (4:57)
Bessel van der Kolk introduces 3 exercises he uses with new clients to bring them into their body and relax the limbic brain.
In this video Ruth Lanius and Bessel van der Kolk, talk about helping clients with trauma to return to their window of tolerance. Often these clients will have a narrow window of tolerance resulting in them frequently being hyper or hypo aroused, making it difficult to think clearly and have stable relationships. The work is to help the client widen their window of tolerance through (1) emotional awareness and regulation, and (2) coming into and feeling safe in their body.
Bessel van der Kolk explains how he works with clients, often in the first session helping them to breath into and open their ribcages, in order to relax the primitive part of their brain. He also uses Qi Chong exercises (working with an imaginary ball) as well as Tapping and working with acupressure points.
3. NICABM: An Exercise for Working with Hypoarousal (4:58)
Eboni Webb provides practical advice for working with Hypoaroused and disconnected clients.
In this video, Eboni Webb, PsyD shares how she works with clients who become overwhelmed and flooded.
She starts by recognising the different ways that a client may present. For some this will include anger, irritability, and increased heart rate (hyperarousal). For others, they may present with reduced responsiveness, and become checked out, numb, disconnected, collapsed and disembodied (hypoarousal). She names how this latter experience can be especially challenging for clinicians.
In this situation, she explains how she works to keep herself regulated through her own grounding techniques to model this to the client. She also uses practical exercises with clients such as working with physical sensations of different temperatures in order to become more embodied.
4. NICABM: Treating Trauma: 2 Ways to Help Clients Feel Safe, with Peter Levine (6:33)
Peter Levine offers 2 body orientated techniques to help clients self-sooth and self-regulate.
In this video, Peter Levine, recognises that a key part of therapy is to create an “island of safety” with the client during the sessions. He also acknowledges that clients need tools for when they are out living their lives and not in the therapy room; so that they are not exclusively dependent on the therapist and don’t self-shame and get overtaken by Fritz Perls’ “top dog”.
The techniques include a self-hug (2:45), with the client putting their hand under their left arm and near their heart, and their right hand over the other upper arm, in order to become aware of the body as a container. This in turn can help contain potentially overwhelming feelings.
The second technique includes putting one hand on their forehead and one on their upper chest (3:53). They are then invited to feel into what goes on in the body between the head and the hands. Once they feel a shift or flow in sensation they can then take the hand on their forehead and move it to their belly (4:38).
He also suggests tapping and tapping the body all over to get a sense of the body’s boundary, as well as squeezing certain muscles.
5. Dr Pooky Knightsmith: Window of Tolerance – a simple tool for emotional regulation (6.33)
Dr Pooky Knightsmith introduces the window of tolerance in a highly accessible way for clients including several potential strategies for emotional regulation.
In this client friendly video, Pooky introduces the Window of Tolerance model as a simple tool for emotional regulation. The idea is to become more aware of where we are in the window and cycle and learn to nudge ourselves in the right direction to maintain our optimal state.
Pooky describes two strategies to help stay within our window of tolerance including becoming aware of the things that move us outside of our window of tolerance allowing us to have strategies to avoid them or manage them differently, for example including more breathing space around anxiety provoking situations.
The second is to have strategies in place for when we notice that we are quickly becoming overwhelmed. She acknowledges that these will vary from person to person and so it is important for individuals to know what works for them when they shoot up (become hyperaroused) and need to calm down, or when they shoot down (hypoaroused) and need help to activate. They can brainstorm ideas with someone else such as their therapist, and test them out for effectiveness.
Suggestions for anxiety and hyper arousal include: taking a break from social interaction; doing something mindfully (eat, drink or walk); box breathing exercises; colouring in; listening to calming music; and stroking a pet.
Suggestions for dealing with collapse include: arousing the 5 senses with vision, taste and smell; having a shower with a strong smelling shower gel; brushing teeth with mint toothpaste; eating something with chili; and listening to uplifting music.
Looking at a wider context, she also notes the importance of sleep, exercise and good nutrition to help regulate ourselves.
6. Dr Daniel Siegel presenting a Hand Model of the Brain (2:31)
Dr Daniel Siegel presents an easy to understand Model of the Brain using his hand.
In this short video, aimed at parents and children, Dr Dan Siegel presents his model of the brain using his hand. It is a useful way of introducing clients to the power of neuroscience, learning to regulate their emotions, and reducing the chance of ‘flipping their lid’.
He argues that by seeing and understanding what the brain does, we can then change the brain, for example by naming when emotions are arising and taking time out if required.
7. NICABM: The Neuroscience of Mindfulness and Fear with Tara Brach, PhD (4:15)
Tara Brach explains the neuroscience and benefits of mindfulness including Dan Siegel’s hand model of the mind.
In this video, Tara Brach uses Dan Seigel’s model to explain why mindfulness and meditation are useful. Through being able to increasingly notice and witness what is going on in our brains, we can help ourselves learn to come online again when we get activated or have a ‘limbic hijack’. Tara describes how mindfulness directly activates the frontal cortex, citing research that shows that when we name an emotion it activates this part of the brain, and deactivates the limbic system.
8. TikTok: Increase window of tolerance with @adelemartellit (0:57)
@adelemartellit Increase window of tolerance #trauma #dissociation #groundingtechique #somatichealing #introception #mindfulness #therapistsoftiktok #therapy #healin ♬ Steven Universe – L.Dre
Psychotherapist @adelemartellit invites an experiment to get into the body and describe what is going on. This is introduced as a way of building your window of tolerance and an ongoing strength response (to use alongside grounding exercises in response to specific triggers). She suggests having a shower and making it hotter and colder. During this process identify what the shift in temperature feels like, describing it (tense? relaxing? etc), and sense where in the body you feel this; and placing your hands there.
9. TikTok: Understanding the Window of tolerance with @thatjoerapkid (3:00)
Joe Rap (@thatjoerapkid) provides a short and detailed overview of the window of tolerance and the impact of triggers which take us outside of our optimal window, and result in anxiety, depression and PTSD:
@thatjoerapkid Window of Tolerance. #ptsd #anxiety #depression #mentalhealth #psychology ♬ original sound – Joe Rap
10. TikTok: The Neuroscience of why walking reduces our stress response with @mindbrainbodylab (0:48)
Cody Isabel (@mindbrainbodylab) describes how walking assists with decreasing anxiety and our stress response through creating optical flow:
@mindbrainbodylab I’m a huge fan of using Neuroscience and nature as a way to heal our minds and bodies. If you can’t find time to make it outside today another trick I like to use is pinching your thumb.. This video is pinned at the top of my page go check it out for a quick emotional regulation how to. And follow us for more ways to use Neuroscience to help your mental health. #neuroscience #walking #anxiety #anxietyrelief ♬ original sound – Cody Isabel
Looking for more ideas of how to work with anxiety and anxious clients?
Join us for our one day online CPD event: Anxiety: Attachment, Neuroscience and The Body on 8th October 2022:
In this one-day seminar our three speakers: Victoria Settle, Smita Rajput Kamble and Suzanne Worrica, will explore the experience of anxiety, and how we can effectively work with clients experiencing these symptoms in therapy.
We will explore the neuroscience of anxiety, the function of anxiety in everyday life and the experience of collective anxiety experienced in response to world events. The day will offer ideas about why some people become overwhelmed with anxiety and panic, including early causes around attachment rupture, and also offer some ways to work with anxiety and panic, including somatic/body-based approaches.
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