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55 Questions for Anxiety Clients in Therapy

Similar to other emotional experiences, anxiety falls within our natural, and normal, range of emotions. Anxiety is a defense mechanism that gets our attention when something could cause us harm in one way or another. This explanation helps us understand why we feel anxious, however, it does not do justice to those who struggle with anxiety. Keep reading to learn 55 anxiety questions you can ask clients in therapy.

When someone finds themselves struggling with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, they can experience a range of symptoms that impact their day-to-day life. Challenges can arise because their initial response may not take into consideration if something is a true threat of danger, which can increase the amount, or the severity, of anxiety symptoms they experience.

Some people experience internal symptoms, such as racing thoughts and poor concentration, that may not be noticed by others around them. Others may find themselves talking fast, fidgeting, and sweating. Anxiety can impact our ability to focus on the task at hand and manage daily responsibilities.

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Anxiety can be triggered by a number of situations and events including recent life changes, stress, past experiences, trauma, conflict, and health concerns.

There are several anxiety disorders that are listed in the DSM-V-TR, each with its own symptoms and challenges. The American Psychiatric Association has shared the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the U.S. to be:

  • Specific Phobia: 8% – 12% (U.S.)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: 7% (U.S.)
  • Panic Disorder: 2% – 3% (U.S.)
  • Agoraphobia: 1-1.7% (adolescents and adults; worldwide)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 0.9% (adolescents) and 2.9% (adults)
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder: 4% (children); 1.6% (adolescents); 0.9%-1.9% (adults)
  • Selective mutism: 0.03-1.9% (U.S., Europe, Israel)

Getting Ready for Your First Therapy Session with a New Client with Anxiety

When you are getting ready to meet with a new client, you should have an idea of the general flow of your session.  If you need, it could be helpful to spend a few moments reviewing the documentation and other paperwork that you are expected to complete after this session, as well as the referral information that you have received.

Another detail that will impact how you prepare for your session is the therapeutic approach that you are using in your clinical work. As an example, if you work within a specific modality, you may want to spend time providing them with information about your approach so that they know what they can expect from therapy.

In subsequent sessions, you may find that worksheets are helpful tools as you work with your client. Worksheets can help guide anxiety activities in sessions and act as a resource for your client outside of sessions. TherapyByPro offers anxiety worksheets that are organized into different therapeutic approaches that can effectively treat anxiety and anxiety disorders.  

Additionally, it is important that we are mindful of our own mental health needs. One of the many privileges that mental health professionals have is to sit with individuals and witness their stories. It is because of this, that it is important that we check in with ourselves regularly and take care of ourselves. This can include simple actions like drinking water, exercising, and providing our bodies with the sustenance we need. Self-care practices can be added to our routine as well to ensure that we are in an ideal place when meeting with our clients. 

Therapy Questions to Ask Clients with Anxiety

Anxiety questions can be used with many intentions. You can use them to learn more about your client’s thoughts and experiences, as well as check in about what they have taken away from your conversations and time together. Your clients may find that they have anxiety questions of their own as they progress in their therapy.

Examples of anxiety questions to ask in therapy include:

  1. How are you feeling at this moment? Check in with your breathing, muscles that may be tense, and your thoughts.
  2. On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being not anxious at all and 10 having the highest level of distress, how would you rate your anxiety at this moment?
  3. What would it take for us to move your rating of anxiety down one number?
  4. Is there anything that you would like to focus on during our time together today?
  5. Can you share with me a time that you feel as though you managed your symptoms well since we last saw each other?
  6. Did you have any experiences that challenged you in the last week?
  7. What symptoms were challenging for you in the last week?
  8. Did you notice any improvements from the week before that?
  9. What are some of the signs or symptoms that come up for you when you are anxious?
  10. Have you found any coping skills that help you manage them when they come up?
  11. Can you tell me where in your body you are feeling anxious?
  12. How would you describe your thoughts since we last saw each other?
  13. Were you able to recognize unhealthy automatic thoughts in the past few days? Tell me about your experience once you noticed them, including how you responded to them.
  14. Do you feel as though your anxiety kept you from doing something you wanted to do recently?
  15. Can you think of a time in the past week when you were able to cope with your anxiety? What did that look like for you?
  16. Can you tell me about the coping skills that you feel help you when you are feeling anxious?
  17. Are there any coping skills that you feel may not work as well, or maybe we should circle back to?
  18. Can you share with me your experience with mindfulness? Are there any mindfulness practices that you have tried to incorporate into your routine?
  19. Would it be helpful if I walked you through a mindfulness practice?
  20. Would it be helpful if I walked you through a breathing practice?
  21. What do you feel would be different in your life if you did not experience anxiety?
  22. Can you tell me what you feel would be different if you were able to manage your anxiety better?
  23. What will be different when you are able to cope with your anxiety?
  24. Would you describe yourself as a worrier?
  25. What do you tend to worry about?
  26. How often does that worry come to mind for you?
  27. Have you found anything to be helpful when you find yourself focusing on that worry?
  28. When did you begin to notice these worries coming up for you?
  29. Have you noticed any triggers for your anxiety?
  30. Are there any situations that you know make you feel anxious?
  31. Are there any places that you tend to feel anxious in?
  32. Do you feel restless or on edge? Can you tell me more about this?
  33. How would you describe your energy level throughout the day? Have you noticed any patterns?
  34. How would you describe your concentration? Where in your life does this happen (work, school, and social situations)?
  35. Can you tell me about your mood? Would you say that you are irritable?
  36. How has your sleep been lately?
  37. Do you feel rested when you wake in the morning?
  38. Can you tell me about your typical experience falling asleep at night?
  39. Do you experience racing thoughts or feel as though you talk fast?
  40. Would you describe yourself as impulsive?
  41. Do you feel as though you are eating well, sleeping enough, and drinking enough water?
  42. Can you describe your eating patterns for me? How has your appetite been?
  43. Can you share with me what an anxiety attack looks like for you?
  44. Is there anything that makes your anxiety attacks worse? How about anything that helps you feel better?
  45. Is there anything that helps bring you back to the moment, or feel grounded?
  46. Would it be helpful if I walked you through a grounding exercise?
  47. Is there anyone in your life that you have talked to about your concerns with anxiety?
  48. How can someone show you support when you are feeling anxious, or having an anxiety attack?
  49. Can you think back to a time in your life when you didn’t experience anxiety as you do now?
  50. What changed for you between that time and now? Was there an experience that had a significant impact on you?
  51. Have you experienced a panic attack before? Can you tell me what that looked like for you?
  52. How do you feel that your panic attack affected your behaviors?
  53. Do you find yourself avoiding anything in an attempt to prevent more panic attacks?
  54. How often do you find yourself worrying about having panic attacks?
  55. Can you tell me about what you do for fun?

Final Thoughts on Therapy Questions to Ask Clients with Anxiety

Thank you for reading this resource on 55 anxiety questions you can ask clients in therapy sessions. We hope that you are walking away with a thought that you didn’t have before! With over a quarter of adults in the U.S. experiencing an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, this will likely be a concern that you work with clinically, or maybe in your personal life. While there can be differences in the symptoms they experience and the impact that their symptoms have on their overall functioning, it can cause distress in adults, teens, and children.

If you are interested in learning more about anxiety disorders and effective treatment approaches, we encourage you to seek out  Continuing Education and other training opportunities in your area.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.

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Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC
Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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