Anxiety, Avoidance, and The Hero’s Journey

Jeremy Nunnelley, LPC, NCC

PQ Therapist

Anxiety is an increasingly common problem for adolescents and young adults. The worry and fear associated with anxiety disorders can result in self-doubt, irritability, difficulty focusing, and feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks. In addition to these primary symptoms, other issues can worsen and be made more resistant to treatment through anxious avoidance.

Avoidance maintains anxiety. An avoidant person never learns that they can tolerate distress and confront their fears. A person’s faulty beliefs about situations are not challenged by new experiences when that person continues to avoid. For example, a student experiencing grief may become avoidant of anything that reminds them of their grief including talking about it in therapy. When students develop more confidence and find themselves capable of facing their fears, anxiety can begin to decrease.

At Pacific Quest, anxiety is addressed on many levels. Our students’ diet, hydration, sleep, and exercise are optimized. Therapists assist students in reframing irrational thoughts and challenging negative self-talk. Students are empowered with deep breathing and mindfulness exercises. While these interventions are taking place, the framing of a student’s entire experience at PQ also assists us in promoting healing. The concept of a hero’s journey informs our curriculum and the way we talk with our students about their work at PQ.

A hero’s journey is a quest of self-discovery. Through framing our students’ experience at PQ as a hero’s journey and including a rite of passage experience, we allow our students to enter the program with the expectation that this will be a transformational process requiring courage and exploration of their innermost thoughts, emotions, and fears. Many elements of the PQ student curriculum encourage honest self-examination, and these curriculum components are used by therapists in maintaining students’ development of confidence and courage as we prepare for their rite of passage.

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