Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Treatment at the CTSA

The Center offers specialized treatment for children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, and trauma- and stressor-related disorders. Treatment at the Center is cognitive-behavioral in orientation and typically time limited (10 to 20 sessions). Patients meet one-on-one with a therapist for one or more sessions each week.

Before entering a treatment program at the Center, patients first complete a phone screening interview with one of our intake coordinators. If appropriate, patients then schedule and complete an extensive psychological evaluation with a clinician. Patients are interviewed at length and complete a number of specialized assessment forms to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The information gathered during this evaluation is used to determine if the person has an anxiety or stress problem and which treatment best matches the patient's needs. The results of the evaluation are discussed with the patient and treatment recommendations are offered. If the evaluation indicates that the treatment programs at the Center are appropriate for the person, then arrangements for treatment will be made following the evaluation.

 

What is Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic orientation that has been shown to be effective for anxiety and related disorders. CBT is based on the core principle that thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are interconnected such that changes in one domain affects changes in the other two domains. For example, if we change how we behave in response to a stressor, we can change how we think about it as well as how we feel about it. In CBT, there is an emphasis on learning to be your own therapist through completing exercises in session with your clinician as well as completing homework exercises to practice the skills you are learning outside of sessions. 

In treatment for anxiety and related disorders, exposure therapy (a type of CBT) is used to help you face your fears (instead of avoiding them), which helps to change the way you think about the fears and the likelihood of experiencing a negative outcome. This, in turn, affects the anxiety you feel when you think about or are in that situation. In exposure therapy, you choose to gradually expose yourself to feared situations repeatedly, until your thinking about it changes and it no longer triggers fear and anxiety. This can be done via “imaginal exposure” (i.e., confronting the feared situation in one’s mind), or via “in vivo exposure” (i.e., confronting the feared situation in real life). Exposure therapy is most effective when it is done frequently and lasts long enough for the fear to decrease. Your clinician will create a personalized treatment plan with you that will outline the steps to take to make treatment most effective and will work with you throughout treatment on helping you to approach feared situations systematically.


Back to Top