The ability to cope with feelings of anxiety and worry is a unique experience for every individual with these emotions.
However, the main goal in treating anxiety is to learn how to achieve a more stable sense of self.
Coaching aims to facilitate a shift in an individual’s perception by encouraging them to engage in self-improvement (Westfall, 2021). Since coaching focuses on goal setting and shifting individual viewpoints, it is seen as an effective tool in helping some individuals combat anxiety.
This article highlights programs that focus on anxiety coaching and offers resources and techniques that can be used in sessions with clients experiencing anxiety symptoms.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Strengths Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help your clients realize their unique potential and create a life that feels energizing and authentic.
This Article Contains:
Coaching for Anxiety 101
The main difference between coaching and clinical therapeutic interventions is that a therapist is seen as the expert who recommends tools that will provide help for a client’s specific issues. However, a coach focuses on guiding their clients to open up new possibilities and be motivated to engage in change.
Another difference involves what your clients choose to reflect on in order to combat anxiety. Therapy often looks at questions that come up because of past experiences and trauma. Coaching aims to help clients access new viewpoints that will help them improve their future and look forward by achieving their goals.
Clients with higher levels of anxiety that could indicate a mental illness, such as GAD or PTSD, should be referred to a mental health professional. These clients are not appropriate for anxiety coaching, and coaches are not trained to work with them.
Since anxiety is often focused on fear of the future, anxiety coaching combats anxiety-related symptoms by helping clients feel more in control of the outcome and facilitating more positive thought patterns.
How to Coach Clients With Anxiety
In any coaching practice, the most important thing is to empathize with your clients.
Anxiety coaching involves asking clients questions to understand their anxiety better. In order to narrow down the cause of clients’ anxiety, coaches may want to follow the following steps (adapted from Life Coach Directory, n.d.):
- Start by asking, “What’s your goal?”
It’s important to know why your clients have sought coaching in the first place. A goal that is specific to someone with anxiety might be to reduce their anxiety in social situations or to bring their general daily anxiety down to a manageable level.
- Next, examine the underlying beliefs that fuel the anxiety.
After you have helped your client identify their goals, it is time to understand what has fueled their anxious behavior. Their beliefs may be based on past experiences, possibly during childhood, and behaviors they may have witnessed from their loved ones.
- Understand how these experiences and beliefs can be reconfigured to manage anxiety.
Once you have identified these beliefs and how they may fuel anxiety, it is time to reconfigure these beliefs to reduce your client’s anxiety-related symptoms. For example, if a client thinks they will always be embarrassed in social situations, a coaching session may help them discover ways to be more confident when entering these situations.
- Make a plan.
After these beliefs have been identified and reconfigured, it is important to put what they have learned into action. For example, if this same client is overcoming their fear of social situations, they can use the knowledge gained from coaching sessions to attend social situations without feeling anxious.
2 Techniques for Anxiety Coaches
Coaching is a client-centered process where coaches encourage clients to face their challenges. This is done through developing the client’s insight surrounding what inspires them, their motivations, and purpose, as well as identifying areas for growth (Drake, 2011).
There are several coaching techniques that can be adapted to help clients who are experiencing anxiety that is affecting their daily functioning.
Balanced time perspective
Time perspective coaching encourages clients to be actively aware of events that are happening around them. In time perspective coaching, the past is divided into past negative and past positive, and the present is divided into present fatalism and present hedonism (Jarosz, 2017). If any of these perspectives is weighed too heavily, clients cannot focus on what’s happening now and may feel insecure about the future.
When anxiety centers around fear of future events, time perspective coaching can help clients to realize how their anxiety is impacting them. The first step might be to encourage clients to think about what their future best self looks like by starting a diary.
Clients can also answer reflective questions out loud or in writing, such as (adapted from Boniwell & Osin, 2015):
- What are the top priorities that are most important to you?
- How would you prefer to spend the next three years in a perfect world?
- Imagine you found out you only had one year left to live. How would you spend this time? What would you do?
Having this mindset can help reduce your client’s anxiety that manifests from making future choices. It will also allow your clients to feel supported while they are navigating how to align their chosen actions with their core values.
Self-determination theory focuses on the kind of conditions that motivate people to do well and feel good throughout the course of their lives. More specifically, self-determination theory looks at what motivates individuals to set goals and discover their purpose, with the ultimate goal of achieving autonomy (Spence & Oades, 2011).
Self-determination also focuses on ensuring that specific socio-cultural conditions (e.g., family relationships, friendships, workplace culture, political system, and cultural norms) support the innate needs of freely engaging in interesting activities (autonomy), producing valued outcomes via the use of our capacities (competence), and feeling closely and securely connected to significant others (relatedness; Spence & Oades, 2011).
Coaches can help clients meet these needs and their goals, through focusing and developing their personal strengths. This can be done by introducing clients to a process model such as the goal–reality–options–wrap-up (GROW) model (Whitemore, 1996).
Once clients have filled out the GROW coaching model template, they can target the stage of the goal-setting process they are in. Below is an example of how coaches and clients can work together to use this model in their sessions (adapted from Whitemore, 1996):
Agree to a specific objective with the clients; set discussion topics with the intent of coming up with long-term goals.
Offer specific examples for feedback and encourage clients to engage in self-assessment surrounding their long-term goals.
Weigh the full range of options for each goal and offer applicable suggestions.
Commit to action; identify possible obstacles and take specific steps with timeframes for achieving each goal.
How to Become an Anxiety Coach
Becoming an anxiety coach often involves pursuing a certification as a life coach.
While there are no specific educational programs focused on coaching, having a certificate or degree can help enhance your practice, but it is not required to become a successful coach.
However, to engage in specific mental health interventions, it is recommended that you seek coursework that is specific to anxiety-related conditions, situations that cause anxiety to manifest, and specific questions that will help individuals explore the root cause of their anxiety.
3 Best programs and courses
Some specific coaching programs that will help coaches who want to pursue an anxiety coach specialization are listed below. It is recommended that you complete one of these courses before offering anxiety coaching as an option in your coaching practice.
1. Break the Worry Trance: Coaching Academy for Mental Health and Wellness Professionals – Karen Day
This coaching course focuses on helping clients break the cycle of worry and rumination that characterizes anxiety-related symptomatology.
It aims to provide participants with a program that helps individuals deal with the complexities of anxiety-related symptoms, such as panic, trauma, and negative thinking, while still challenging them to set individual goals that help them live a healthier life.
Through a combination of mindfulness and recovery-based approaches, this program can be delivered over six to eight weeks or through a four- to five-day intensive session.
Access their program.
2. Professional Anxiety Coach Course – Dr. Elisaveta Pavlova
This free course offers strategies for coaches and their clients to help reduce anxiety.
The course also has exercises to help with specific situations that may cause more anxiety, such as trauma, abuse, or toxic relationships. This program is self-directed and can be completed at the coach’s own pace.
Access their course.
3. LAR Coaching Diploma (NCFE Level 4) – Linden Tree Education
This coaching program focuses on anxiety recovery instead of management. This method focuses on reteaching and resetting neurological responses so that a person is not in a constant state of fight or flight.
The goal is to coach clients on how to deal with threats appropriately so they are not in a state of anxiety and consistently respond to every event like there is an imminent threat.
Alongside adjusting a client’s neurological responses, this program provides coping strategies to help facilitate recovery and give clients relief from anxiety.
Access their program.
7 Helpful Podcasts and Apps
There are several podcasts and apps that are widely available to help your clients learn more about anxiety. Some of these resources are developed by therapists and psychologists who are well versed in anxiety, while others originate from individuals who have experienced anxiety-related symptoms and are looking to help others.
Regardless of the origin, these resources are aimed at helping your clients overcome anxiety by supplementing your sessions and providing further guidance on topics that apply to specific individual experiences.
The Anxiety Coaches Podcast – Moving Ahead in Spite of Despair – Gina Ryan
The Anxiety Coaches podcast provides strategies to overcome anxiety from certified anxiety coach Gina Ryan.
Ryan is an anxiety coach and nutritionist with over 20 years of experience in general anxiety, agoraphobia, and panic. The episode we’ve included here provides strategies to overcome the feeling of despair that often accompanies chronic anxiety.
By providing resources to engage in proactive thinking, it aims to help listeners understand the manifestation of these thoughts and how they can limit the impact of despair on their mindset.
Access this podcast episode.
The Anxiety Guy Podcast – How Many People Are Living in Your Mind and Body – Dennis Simsek
Simsek shares strategies that have worked for him so that listeners do not make the same mistakes he made in dealing with anxiety.
This episode encourages listeners to examine their preconceptions surrounding anxiety symptoms, identify their triggers, and create new perceptions based on a healthier reality.
Access this podcast episode.
Dear Gabby – How to Live Without Anxiety – Gabby Bernstein
The exercise focuses on breathing and using positive affirmations to lead listeners to a feeling of safety.
Teaching this method to your clients can help them deal with difficult emotions surrounding anxiety.
Access this podcast episode.
The Life Coach School – Overcoming Anxiety – Brooke Castillo
Even though this podcast is more focused on general life coaching, Castillo also emphasizes that anxiety is a normal part of our daily life. She provides strategies to help combat anxiety so that even if it occurs, your clients have the tools they need to manage it healthily.
Access this podcast episode.
Quenza is an online coaching platform that streamlines the delivery of psychological and coaching interventions.
Practitioners can select or create the activities that meet clients’ needs and also make customized lists that will guide them online. Coaches can send out notifications that alert clients about new activities and save completed ones so they can discuss them in their upcoming sessions.
To access this app, you can get a one-month trial for only $1.
This app provides users with pre-recorded tracks that guide them through meditation and help them relax if they are struggling with sleep. Users can select from several different tracks based on their interests, age, and what type of issue they are experiencing.
It also gives users the opportunity to make a profile so they can document their interests and have the app recommend tracks they might like to help reduce their anxiety.
Access this app.
This app helps individuals who are experiencing severe symptoms, such as panic attacks.
Users are meant to turn it on once symptoms start. Based on what the user is experiencing, the app will guide them through body scans and visualization techniques.
It also offers an emergency contact feature where the user can immediately get support from a loved one. The aim is to calm the user down quickly, no matter which situation they are in, and bring them down from the danger zone.
Access this app.
Resources From PositivePsychology.com
Our website has several resources available for coaches looking to help their clients with anxiety-related issues.
Below we have provided a list of some of the best resources that can help coaches and their clients.
- Coaching Intake Form
This form is an excellent starting point for coaches looking to get more information about their clients. Clients can fill out their reasons for seeking out coaching. It invites clients to engage in self-reflection to list some of their current coping mechanisms that they want to improve.
- Self-Care Check In
This worksheet provides clients with a list of activities they can engage in to promote self-care. Self-care is an excellent way to help combat anxiety, as it allows clients to focus on their needs as opposed to their worries.
- 3-Month Vision Board
This exercise gives clients the opportunity to plan where they are going to be in three months. This gives them the opportunity to plan long-term goals and remain hopeful for the future.
- 17 Strength-Finding Exercises
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop their strengths, check out this collection of 17 strength-finding tools for practitioners. Use them to help others better understand and harness their strengths in life-enhancing ways.
A Take-Home Message
Anxiety can be a debilitating experience if it is not dealt with in a timely manner. Anxiety coaching can be an effective means of helping clients set goals and engage in self-reflection to understand harmful thought patterns.
Since coaching focuses on individuals taking ownership to help improve future behaviors, it can be an effective way for many people with anxiety to help overcome some of their symptoms.
We hope this article provides you with valuable resources to help your clients if you are a coach. If you yourself experience anxiety, we encourage you to seek support from a coach who deals with anxiety and that this would give you a starting point for a better future.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Strengths Exercises for free.
- Boniwell, I., & Osin, E. N. (2015). Time perspective coaching. In M. Stolarski, N. Fieulaine, & W. van Beek (Eds.), Time perspective theory: Review, research and application (pp. 451–469). Springer.
- Drake, D. B. (2011). What do coaches need to know? Using the mastery window to assess and develop expertise. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice, 4(2), 138–155.
- Jarosz, J. (2017). An integrative literature review on the impact of life coaching on courage, fear, and anxiety. International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring, 15(2), 86–110.
- Life Coach Directory. (n.d.). Types of coaching: Anxiety. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.lifecoach-directory.org.uk/articles/anxiety-coaching.html#whatisanxiety
- Spence, G. B., & Oades, L. G. (2011). Coaching with self-determination in mind: Using theory to advance evidence-based coaching practice. International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring, 9(2), 37–55.
- Westfall, C. (2021, August 25). Battling burnout, anxiety, and building productivity: Do you need coaching or therapy? Forbes. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2021/08/25/battling-burnout-anxiety-and-building-productivity-do-you-need-coaching-or-therapy/
- Whitemore, J. (1996). Coaching for performance: The new edition of the practical guide. Nicholas Brealey.