With years of experience treating anxiety-riddled clients, Reid Wilson, author of Don’t Panic, knows a thing or two about helping people rein in the trademark rapid breathing, cold sweats, and stammering that occur during a panic attack.
To cut off panic attacks at the source, Reid takes a provocative approach. Put clients in uncomfortable situations—have them hyperventilate, for example—and then guide them out of the panic experience as their ally. In fact, he says, you can hyperventilate alongside your panicked client. It builds rapport, and makes them feel less alienated. An early goal, he says, should be to have your client leave the first session thinking, “Thank god I finally found someone who understands me.”
In this brief video clip, Reid discusses his approach with clients between the ages of 17 and 23, neck-deep in a sea of chaotic college life, heavy drinking, and rapidly evolving relationships that is a breeding ground for panic attacks. “All people with anxiety don’t tolerate uncertainty very well,” says Reid. “But in high school, I know what the rules are, and if I’m breaking them or not. Once I get to college, the decision-making is no longer clear for me, and it puts a crack in the defensive system.” Conquer anxiety in this age group, Reid says, and you can handle almost anyone.
In the Networker webcast series Treating Anxiety, Reid lays out his approach for overcoming anxiety and how it evolved. “Earlier, I’d focused on skills to help clients accept symptoms of anxiety, permit themselves to feel uncomfortable,” he says. “But now I believe the best maneuver for clients is to actively provoke the doubt and discomfort they fear, regardless of where it appears.”