CBT for Test Anxiety
Test Anxiety and CBT
Being constantly tested for performance to exacting and prescriptive standards heavily biases an individual’s status based on quantifiable achievement.
Testing in schools, universities, career, or work assessment all create a climate that these measures strongly correlate with both success and worth.
“We live in a test conscious,test giving culture in which the lives of people are in part determined by their test performance.”
S. B. Sarason
CBT and Test Anxiety
It is not surprising that testing ability evokes anxiety in a significant number of people. Even children are now anxiety prone in a test oriented world where constant expectations of high performance are experienced both at home and in the classroom.
The stresses of academic life can have detrimental effects upon students who have a tendency to respond to threatening situations with a fear that the worst may occur and they will not succeed.
This pressure cooker effect of ever increasing measures of achievement drive people to devote more and more time to study in a narrow focused , goal oriented way, with little or no time for relaxation and recovery.
Test Anxiety is defined as a reaction to a perceived threat and the perceived incapacity to have the coping strategies and mindset to overcome this capably.
The triggers for test anxiety are:
- Negative appraisal of situations as difficult, challenging, or threatening.
- Self perception that one is not adequate or competent to the task being presented.
- A lack of a tool kit or repertoire from previously successful coping strategies.
- Negative automatic thoughts with a single focus on negative outcomes and the consequences of this.
- Punishing self talk around not being good enough or measuring up.
- Low self esteem as a vicious cycle of self depreciation on personal worth and a lack of concentrating resulting from this.
- Rigidity in thinking due to high arousal in emotion focused coping. This greatly reduces problem solving and cognitive application.
- Negative predictions around the anticipation of failure and the effect this will have both on oneself and others
How can CBT help?
After an initial assessment using and semi structured interview an individual program is designed to increase an individual ability to master stressful situations to be able to perform optimally in a testing environment.
In the first stage of CBT behavioural training is given to lower the effects of physiological arousal commensurate with anxiety that trigger the fear of the fear that the worst will happen. These techniques include breathing, mindfulness, visualisation, mastery and pleasure exercises and an extensive tool kit for reducing performance stress.
The second stage of CBT teaches clients both to identify and challenge their negative thoughts which occur as a result of misinterpreting signals of physical arousal as indicators of predicted failure. The ability to reinterpret negative thoughts in alternative or balanced ways changes the equation of increased coping skill decreases the potential perceived threat.
The third stage uses behavioural experiments to expose clients to potentially stressful situations to desensitized them and finally habituated them by successive approximation to the desired goal. Areas of focus include perfectionism, not ever feeling good enough, and conditional self worth based on performance. Modifying these deeply held belief greatly mitigate against returning to old patterns of behaviour.
Virtual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Convenient, private and secure
Online Therapy is available to anyone, anywhere in the world at home or in the office using a tablet, mobile phone or laptop / computer and a good internet connection.
This service would appeal to client's for a variety of reasons.
- Clients location would make it difficult / impossible to access Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.
- Clients time-pressure, work deadlines, and work-based travel make it difficult to commit for the normal counselling time-scale.
- Clients family commitments make it easier to have treatment on-line at home.
- Clients prefer an initial face to face assessment, and then combine both treatment modalities.