therapy goals for anxiety


This article will provide readers with actionable therapy goals for managing anxiety, helping them to understand and implement effective strategies for relief and long-term mental health improvement.


Anxiety is considered a mental health disorder that is characterized by severe worry, concern, fear, and agitation. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including things like phobias, which relate to specific things or circumstances, as well as social anxiety, which relates to social situations, and generalized anxiety.

therapy goals for anxiety

If you struggle with any type of anxiety, whether it’s an anxiety disorder or acute anxiety, it’s important that you address it through therapy. Studies indicate that short-term solutions like transcranial magnetic stimulation and medication are more effective when used in conjunction with therapy because therapy provides long-term relief, whereas other options provide short-term relief.

Understanding Therapy Goals for Anxiety

Goals for therapy anxiety sessions are things that you set with your therapist. These goals include short and long-term things that you want to achieve, such as:

  1. Reducing anxiety when you go out with friends
  2. Controlling how physically anxious you become when triggered
  3. Improving the severity of acute anxiety

The goals of therapy for anxiety serve to help you work toward achievable goals and, as you move through different achievements, reflect on the growth you have made as a result of your hard work and therapy sessions.

What Are Therapy Goals?

When you first meet with your therapist, they will help you create a treatment plan. This will start with:

  • Understanding your diagnosis, such as generalized anxiety disorder
  • What problems or needs do you want to tackle first
  • Any current medication you are on
  • Other treatments you have received, like TMS

From there, you will talk about your long-term goals and your short-term goals.

Why Set Therapy Goals for Anxiety?

Studies indicate that when you set goals for anxiety therapy, it can help reduce your stress and allow you to focus more effectively on the therapeutic process. Working together with your therapist toward measurable goals can help you feel more engaged in the process and, as a direct result, keep you actively participating and motivated. Goals also give you direction and allow you an opportunity to examine how far you’ve come.

Top 10 Therapy Goals for Anxiety

So what are the top 10 therapy goals for anxiety that most people should consider?

#1. Reducing Overall Anxiety Levels

One of your primary goals for therapy anxiety symptoms should be to reduce your resting anxiety levels. This will likely include reducing the following:

  • Frequency
  • Level
  • Intensity

Reducing all three of these can help prevent your anxiety from impairing daily function.

#2. Managing Panic Attacks

The second is to focus on managing your panic attacks. Many people with several forms of anxiety disorders also struggle with panic attacks. panic attacks can happen unexpectedly without any cause or trigger, and when they do, they can lead to increased anxiety thereafter because individuals are continually anxious about when the next one will strike.

Learning to manage panic attacks, recognize the signs of a forthcoming attack, and then decrease the subsequent anxiety are all therapy goals that you can achieve with the help of a professional.

#3. Improving Sleep Quality

Sleep quality plays a big role in your mood, particularly symptoms of:

  • High stress
  • Resting cortisol
  • High blood pressure
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

By focusing on improving your sleep, you can improve your anxiety levels and reduce overall anxiety levels, as well as manage your panic attacks. Your therapist can work with you to figure out a good sleep hygiene plan, things you can do right before you go to bed to reduce the amount of anxiety that troubles you when you are trying to fall asleep or trying to stay asleep.

#4. Enhancing Stress Management Skills

Stress management skills are some of the things that you will learn with your therapist in order to improve the quality of your sleep and the overall response you have to stress. Stress is a regular part of life, but people who struggle with anxiety disorders are more likely to have disproportionate emotional responses to stress. Emotional regulation and stress management skills will help combat this.

Some therapy goals for anxiety examples include a short-term goal of enhancing your stress management skills. Consider the following:

Clarissa wants to learn two stress management techniques, both of which help her decrease her anxiety symptoms so that they don’t manifest more than three times each week. With her therapist, she will start on this short-term goal and spend three weeks trying to verbalize two different communication strategies with her therapist that will help her decrease anxiety.

#5. Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Some therapy goals for anxiety examples include a short-term goal of building your self-esteem and confidence. Consider the following:

Timothy struggles with social anxiety and low self-esteem. He is continually worried that when he goes out, people will not like him, and they will talk about him behind his back. This contributes to his low self-esteem, poor confidence, and regular panic attacks.

Timothy wants to uncover any irrational beliefs about himself and others that are contributing to his anxiety. Working with his therapist will help him expose these beliefs and replace them with more realistic beliefs about himself and others so that he can build his self-esteem.

#6. Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

For many people, goals for therapy anxiety symptoms should extend to healthy coping mechanisms because anxiety can quickly spiral out of control to the point that it interferes with daily function or causes panic attacks when individuals don’t have coping mechanisms to deal with even a minor flare-up of anxiety.

Some therapy goals for anxiety examples include a short-term goal of developing healthy coping mechanisms. Consider the example of Timothy once more:

Timothy learned from his parents that when he was worried about social situations or struggling with anxiety, he should pretend that everything was fine and use alcohol to help hide some of his symptoms.

Throughout therapy, he could work with his therapist to identify that conflict from his past, that unhealthy set of coping mechanisms that he learned subconsciously, and then replace them with healthier coping mechanisms like meditation, improved social skills, relaxation, and physical health.

#7. Reducing Avoidance Behaviors

Some people like Timothy learn avoidance behaviors so when they feel anxious they simply avoid people or situations entirely. But this can have a detrimental impact on daily function by impeding your relationships, school work, and professional achievements.

Working with a therapist can give you an opportunity to reduce your avoidance behaviors so that you can learn to tackle your anxiety instead of making it worse by running away from it.

#8. Enhancing Social Skills and Relationships

Enhancing your social skills and building relationships can give you a network of people to whom you can turn when you feel anxious. This helps you when you need someone to talk to or when you need perspective to avoid letting something spiral in your mind.

therapy goals for anxiety

#9. Increasing Mindfulness and Relaxation

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are some of the most important therapy goals for anxiety. Several studies indicate that participation in simple meditation or yoga for just a few weeks with no background in either can significantly reduce resting cortisol levels. This means that those who struggle with high stress and anxiety can significantly diminish their overall levels of anxiety with simple relaxation techniques, and there’s no time frame at which point this becomes ineffective.

#10. Improving Physical Health and Exercise

Just the same as your sleep will influence your mood, so will improving your physical health and getting enough exercise. These simple activities can significantly decrease your resting cortisol levels and, by extension, your symptoms of anxiety.

Summing Up

The goals of therapy for anxiety will have highly personalized suggestions, homework, and practices, but in general, they will help you do things like reduce your avoidance behaviors, increase your mindfulness, improve your sleep and physical health, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and build your self-esteem.

The more you work with a therapist to build important goals for therapy anxiety symptoms, the more successful your sessions will be and the more likely it is that you will have the motivation to make long-term, sustainable changes. If you are struggling with anxiety, don’t be afraid to seek professional help today.