Don’t sweat it: Coping with anxiety

For people that suffer from anxiety disorders, the fear of dealing with social situations can cause trembling, blushing, sweating, or feeling ill. One Washburn  department has a  solution to assist those suffering with these feelings.


The psychology department at Washburn University operates the Psychological Services Clinic.


This fall in addition to targeting anxiety, the clinic also provides assistance with other problems such as depression.


 “It is staffed by therapists who are in our master’s program, with an emphasis on clinical skills, so these are people studying to become master’s level psychologists,” said Cynthia L. Turk, assistant professor and anxiety clinic director. “The clinic serves as the area where they do their training and each therapist is under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, this semester I am the licensed psychologist who is supervising in the clinic.”


According to Turk, the emphasis will be on recruiting people who have problems with anxiety and also might be dealing with another linked issue.


“A lot of times people who have anxiety are also depressed,” said Turk. “Depression and anxiety go together a lot.”


While the clinic does accept people with various issues, they do not serve children or adolescents.    


“We see Washburn students, we see faculty and staff at Washburn, we see people from the community,” said Turk. “The focus [of the clinic] is on adults.”


The clinic actually has a small enough number of clients that the therapists are able to only see two to three at a time. This allows the therapists to devote their time and attention to each of the sessions.


They are also able to get supervision on how they should help work with their clients in the future and gives them experience that will serve beyond their training experience.


Turk believes that patients may even receive more attention at Washburn than in a clinic where the therapists have a higher workload.


The process for a patient to visit the clinic starts by contacting the clinic. The clinic doesn’t have a secretary devoted to the anxiety clinic; the secretary at the psychology department takes a message.


A therapist will then contact the individual and asks a few screening questions. Finally, they schedule an initial appointment. At the appointment the individual fills out a questionnaire and a consent form.


“The consent form helps [patients] to understand the role of the clinic when it comes to confidentiality,” said Turk. “We go over the clinic rules, fill out a few questionnaires, and then we do a structured clinical interview with them.”  


The interview the clients end up going through is designed so that everyone who comes into the clinic receives the same set of questions to answer. It’s with the idea in mind of making sure that there is no missed information.


The following session allows for the client to receive feedback about their interview and also look over a treatment plan that has been proposed.


The rules for confidentiality are similar to any therapist. The clinic’s release of any information, even to a spouse or medical doctor would only be allowed if the individual gives written permission for the physician to share information with another party.


If the individual does not sign the form, the clinic doesn’t release any information, not even that the person attended, to any third party.


The only exceptions are involving safety issues or legal matters in which a court subpoenas the records. A safety issue could involve the safety of a child, another person or the person themselves.

The clinic tries to accommodate to each client but there is are treatments that are used commonly which are part of nearly every clients’ sessions.


“We focus on empirically supported treatments; that is kind of a big thing in the psychological field and in the medical field now,” said Turk. “That means the kinds of things we recommend in terms of things that might be helpful to the people coming into our clinic are based on the research literature.”


So if a student coming in has problems with panic attacks, the treatments that we recommend will be tailored to their individual situation, but the main aspects of their treatment will be drawn from techniques that have been shown to be helpful from scientific studies.


This technique is not used everywhere, though this is the way the field is moving.


After graduation many of the master’s level therapists serve the Topeka community in facilities such as Community Mental Health Centers, Family Service and Guidance Center and other facilities in and around Topeka.


“The program has been around long enough that it has really had a pretty profound impact on a lot of other organizations through our graduates who work there,” said Turk.


So for students, faculty, or community members who are suffering from anxiety disorder or any other form of phobia, depression, or other problems, and seeking help, call Washburn University’s Psychological Services Clinic which can be reached at (785) 670-1564.