To an anxious friend: Help is available

Adult Outpatient Program therapist Jason Khomsi leads the anxiety groups.

Adult Outpatient Program therapist Jason Khomsi leads the anxiety groups. by Jeff Burkhead

As the leader of anxiety therapy groups at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Jason Khomsi knows what he’s talking about.

Because he’s lived it.

“I used to struggle with social anxiety,” Khomsi said. “So a lot of the skills I teach in the anxiety classes I had to learn them on my own and regularly apply them currently.”

Anxiety disorders — chronic conditions characterized by excessive and persistent worry and fear — are the most common mental illness in the United States.

Khomsi leads two anxiety groups at Bert Nash. One is a skills-learning group. The other group is an exposure group, where members are exposed to situations where they feel threatened or afraid and they put into practice the coping skills they have learned.

The groups are for anyone who struggles with any type of anxiety. Both groups meet weekl “This is a cognitive behavior therapy model for treating anxiety,” Khomsi said of the material he uses for the groups. “The idea with cognitive behavior therapy is that the way we think affects the way we feel; therefore, changing how we think can change how we feel. We’re trying to create a new thought, emotion and behavior association to where it becomes habit. That’s really what all this is.

Both anxiety groups consist of about 15 to 20 sessions. People typically take the general anxiety group first, followed by the exposure group. The group numbers fluctuate. The anxiety group averages five to 10 people; the exposure group four to six people.

“We like people to be referred by clinicians, and all of the referrals go through my supervisor to make sure they’re a good fit for group,” Khomsi said. “Anyone who has gone through the intake process and struggles with anxiety can attend.”

Khomsi said the material is fun to teach and he’s received a lot of positive feedback on both groups.

“Everyone really enjoys the material and they learn a lot about how anxiety has impacted them,” he said. “It’s been very liberating for a lot of people.”

“The group has provided us with a lot of good information,” a group member said. “We also talk about coping skills we can use. We identify our fears and anxieties and figure out what’s causing the problem and how we can approach it.”

“Doing this in a group setting you don’t feel so alone,” another member said. “It makes you feel less anxiety knowing you’re not the only one out there feeling this way.”

Khomsi admires the people who take the step to go through the anxiety classes and confront their fears.

“How many people do we really know who confront their biggest fears? Not very many,” he said. “These are really courageous people putting themselves in situations trying to better themselves.”

For information about the Bert Nash anxiety groups, call 785-843-9192.


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