How to Deliver Anxiety Counseling in Each Tier

Counseling students with anxiety is not easy. It's challenging to know how to select which activities to use at each tier to effectively help anxious kiddos. Check out these strategies for counseling students with anxiety.

Anxiety Counseling Basics

Do you feel ill-equipped to counsel students struggling with anxiety? It's a tough topic. Before you get into specific strategies to use with students, remember these key points:

  1. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress that everyone experiences, but some people have anxiety disorders.

  2. Signs of anxiety may be similar to signs of ADHD (ex: difficulty concentrating/staying focused).

  3. Grounding, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and positive affirmations are strategies that can help anxious students.

To learn more about how you can support students who are struggling with anxiety, listen to this podcast episode.

Anxiety: Tier 1 Class Lessons

You can start by teaching a proactive, preventative approach to anxiety. Try using one of these 4 strategies.

  1. Explain the brain: Tell students how the prefrontal cortex and amygdala functions so they can better understand the body's response to anxiety.

  2. Share: Facilitate a share circle or think, pair, share where students can discuss their own experiences with anxiety.

  3. Play charades: Students act out different coping strategies they'd like to try when they feel anxious.

  4. Get digital: These Anxiety Boom Cards are a fun activity to supplement your class lesson.

Anxiety: Tier 2 Small Groups

For students you are seeing in an anxiety or stress small group, try using one of these 4 strategies.

  1. Circles of Control: Students get up and move to form circles with their anxious thoughts to see how much they can actually control.

  2. Avoidable vs. Unavoidable Stressors: Students write down their stressors and then sort them to see if any are avoidable.

  3. Stressors Charades: Students take turns acting out their stressors, then discuss them as a group.

  4. Mindfulness Scripts: Read a guided meditation to students as they practice mindfulness and deep breathing. (Remember, it's best to practice these skills in a calm state so they can use them when they are not!)

All of these strategies are in my Stress Small Group Curriculum. Check it out here.

Anxiety: Tier 3 Individual Sessions

Try using one of these 4 strategies for your most intensive needs, tier 3 students.

  1. Journaling: Writing down their worries (specifically when paired with a strategy like "ask the thinking brain") is a great way for students to process their anxiety.

  2. Make a craft: Help students create a stress ball or calm down bottle

  3. Grounding exercises: Teach grounding exercises like 54321, rainbow, and ABC grounding.

  4. Deep breathing exercises: Have students practice deep breathing exercises they can later use when feeling anxious.

All of these strategies are in my anxiety individual curriculum. Check it out here.

I hope these strategies help you feel more equipped to tackle anxiety counseling! Which one are you most excited to try?

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