Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Treatment Programs

The Center offers specialized treatment for children, adolescents, and adults with a wide range of anxiety and stress disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. Treatments at the Center are typically time limited (10 to 20 sessions) and cognitive-behavioral in orientation. Patients meet one-on-one with a therapist for one or more sessions each week.

Before entering a treatment program at the Center, patients complete an extensive evaluation of their anxiety problems. 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 problem, then arrangements for treatment will be made following the evaluation.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

There are several effective treatments for anxiety disorders:

Exposure Therapy: In this treatment, patients are gradually exposed to their feared situations repeatedly, until the situation no longer triggers the fear response. 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). For example, a patient with a fear of contamination will receive a treatment program that includes gradual exposure to contaminated objects until the patient is not bothered by them. Often, treatment plans combine the two techniques. Exposure is most effective when it is done frequently and lasts long enough for the fear to decrease.

Cognitive Therapy: In this kind of treatment, people learn to identify their anxious thoughts and replace them with more realistic thoughts. Someone with a fear of dying from a panic attack will learn how to replace this thought with the understanding that panic attacks are not deadly and anxiety goes away on its own over time if one stays in the situation.

Relaxation: Relaxation techniques - such as breathing retraining and exercise - can help individuals cope effectively with the stresses and physical reactions related to their anxiety.

Treatment Programs at the CTSA

The Center provides both research and non-research treatment programs for most anxiety disorders. When research programs are available, eligible participants may enroll and receive services free of charge.

For more information on treatment programs available at our Center, please click on a link below:

Consultation with Dr. Edna Foa

Dr. Edna Foa is available for expert case consultation. These consultations sessions are intended to provide individuals, families, and/or providers with expert evaluation of presenting problems related to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and other difficulties with anxiety disorders. Individuals may also receive consultation about evidence-based treatments. Consultation sessions with Dr. Foa are two hours long and are selected for appropriateness on a case-by-case basis and are short-term in nature (generally 1-3 appointments).  

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