Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based, structured, goal-oriented, time-limited intervention for psychological disorders. CBT integrates behavioral and cognitive principles and therapeutic strategies; practitioners and clients work collaboratively to identify patterns of behaving and thinking that contribute to the persistence of symptoms, with the goal of replacing them with more adaptive alternatives. In the treatment of anxiety problems, the primary focus of CBT is on reducing avoidance of feared stimuli (e.g., spiders) or situations (e.g., public speaking) and modifying biases in thinking (e.g., the tendency to interpret benign situations as threatening). At its broadest, CBT is an umbrella term; it describes a range of interventions targeting cognitive and behavioral processes—ranging from early, traditional CBT protocols to more recently developed approaches (e.g., mindfulness-based cognitive therapy). CBT protocols have been developed for the full range of anxiety disorders, and a strong evidence base supports their efficacy.
Michelle L. Moulds, Jessica R. Grisham, and Bronwyn M. Graham
Stirling Moorey and Steven D. Hollon
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has the strongest evidence base of all the psychological treatments for depression. It has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and preventing relapse. All models of CBT share in common an assumption that emotional states are created and maintained through learned patterns of thoughts and behaviors and that new and more helpful patterns can be learned through psychological interventions. They also share a commitment to empirical testing of the theory and clinical practice. Beck’s Cognitive Therapy sees negative distorted thinking as central to depression and is the most established form of CBT for depression. Behavioral approaches, such as Behavioral Activation, which emphasize behavioral rather than cognitive change, also has a growing evidence base. Promising results are emerging from therapies such as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and rumination-focused therapy that focus on the process of managing thoughts rather than their content. Its efficacy-established CBT now faces the challenge of cost-effective dissemination to depressed people in the community.
Simona C. Kaplan, Michaela B. Swee, and Richard G. Heimberg
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by fear of being negatively evaluated by others in social situations. Multiple psychological interventions have been developed to treat SAD. The most widely studied of these interventions stem from cognitive-behavioral, acceptance-based, interpersonal, and psychodynamic conceptualizations of SAD. In cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), patients learn to identify and question maladaptive thoughts and engage in exposures to feared situations to test the accuracy of biased beliefs. Mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to treating SAD focus on mindful awareness and acceptance of distressing internal experiences (i.e., psychological and physiological symptoms) with the ultimate goal of behavior change and living a meaningful life based on identified values. Interpersonal psychotherapy links SAD to interpersonal problem areas and aims to reduce symptoms by targeting interpersonal difficulties. Psychodynamic psychotherapy for SAD focuses on identifying unresolved conflicts that lead to SAD symptoms, fostering insight and expressiveness, and forming a secure helping alliance. Generally, CBT is the most well-studied of the psychological treatments for SAD, and research demonstrates greater reductions in social anxiety than pill placebo and waitlist controls. Results from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that mindfulness—and acceptance-based therapies may be as efficacious as CBT, although the body of research remains small; four of five RCTs comparing these approaches to CBT found no differences. RCTs comparing CBT to IPT suggest that CBT is the more efficacious treatment. Two RCTs comparing CBT to psychodynamic psychotherapy suggest that psychodynamic psychotherapy may have efficacy similar to CBT, but that it takes longer to achieve similar outcomes. RCTs examining CBT and pharmacotherapy suggest that the medications phenelzine and clonazepam are as efficacious as CBT for treating SAD and are faster acting, but that patients receiving these medications may be more likely to relapse after treatment is discontinued than patients who received CBT. Research generally does not indicate added benefit of combining psychotherapy with pharmacotherapy above each monotherapy alone, although this body of research is quite variable. Effectiveness studies indicate that CBT is equally effective in community clinics and controlled research trials, but studies of this nature are lacking for other psychological approaches.
Cathy Creswell, Sasha Walters, Brynjar Halldorsson, and Peter J. Lawrence
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders among children and young people, affecting an estimated 6.5% of children and young people worldwide. Childhood anxiety disorders often persist into adulthood if left untreated and are associated with a significant emotional and financial cost to individuals, their families, and wider society. Models of the development and maintenance of childhood anxiety disorders have underpinned prevention and treatment approaches, and cognitive behavioral treatments have good evidence for their efficacy. Ongoing challenges for the field include the need to improve outcomes for those that do not benefit from current prevention and treatment, and to increase access to those who could benefit.
Jonathan S. Abramowitz
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the most destructive psychological disorders. Its symptoms often interfere with work or school, interpersonal relationships, and with activities of daily living (e.g., driving, using the bathroom). Moreover, the psychopathology of OCD is seemingly complex: sufferers battle ubiquitous unwanted thoughts, doubts, and images that, while senseless on the one hand, are perceived as signs of danger on the other hand. The thematic variation and elaborate relations between behavioral and cognitive signs and symptoms can be perplexing to even the most experienced of observers. Cognitive-behavioral models of OCD explain these phenomena and account for their heterogeneity. These models also have implications for how OCD is treated using exposure and response prevention, which research indicates are effective short- and long-term interventions.
Steven D. Hollon
Cognitive theory posits that how one interprets an event determines how one feels about it and what one will try to do to cope with it. It further suggests that inaccurate beliefs and maladaptive information processing lie at the core of most disorders. Cognitive therapy seeks to reduce distress and relieve dysfunction by teaching patients to examine the accuracy of their beliefs and to use their own behaviors to test their validity. The history of cognitive therapy is in essence a tale of two cities and one institute. Aaron Beck, the progenitor of the approach, did his original work in Philadelphia focused largely on depression before he expanded to other disorders. He spent time subsequently at Oxford University at the invitation of department chair Michael Gelder, whose young protégés David Clark and Paul Salkovskis refined the cognitive model for the anxiety disorders and supercharged their treatment. Anke Ehlers, who extended the model to posttraumatic stress, joined them in the 1990s before all three decamped for the Institute of Psychiatry in London, only to return a decade later. Jack Rachman at the Institute was an early mentor who commissioned conceptual treatises from all three. Chris Fairburn, who stayed at Oxford, developed a cognitive behavioral treatment for the eating disorders that focuses on changing beliefs, and Daniel Freeman from the Institute joined in 2011 with an emphasis on schizophrenia. Cognitive therapy has had a major impact on treatment in the United States but even more so in the United Kingdom, where it reigns supreme. Cognitive therapy encourages patients to use their own behaviors to test their beliefs but keeps its focus squarely on those beliefs as the key mechanism to be changed. It is one of the most efficacious and enduring treatments for the various psychiatric disorders.
Jonathan S. Gooblar and Sherry A. Beaudreau
Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent and understudied mental health problems in late life. Specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are the most prevalent anxiety disorders in older adults among the 11 disorders identified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition). Anxiety disorders lead to significant functional burdens and interface with physical health problems and cognitive impairment, concerns frequently experienced in adults over age 65. Additional contextual factors should be considered when assessing and treating late-life anxiety, including the effects of polypharmacy, other mental health conditions, role changes, and societal attitudes toward aging. The relationship between anxiety and physical health problems in older adults can be causal or contextual, and can involve poorer estimates of subjective health and lower ratings of functioning. These factors present unique challenges to the detection, conceptualization, and treatment of late-life anxiety, including the tendency for older adults to focus on somatic symptoms and the potential for long-term behaviors that can mask distress such as substance use. Researchers are increasingly incorporating a gerodiversity framework to understand the contributions of cultural, individual, and other group differences that may affect the presentation of anxiety symptoms and disorders. Older adults in general are less likely to be treated for anxiety disorders, and intersecting individual and group differences likely further affect how anxiety disorders are perceived by healthcare providers. Cognitive behavioral therapy and its variants have the most empirical support for treatment. Newer evidence lends support to acceptance and commitment therapy and problem-solving therapy, which tend to address some of the contextual factors that may be important in treatment.
Quincy J. J. Wong, Alison L. Calear, and Helen Christensen
Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) is the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) using the Internet as a platform for delivery. The advantage of ICBT is its ability to overcome barriers to treatment associated with traditional face-to-face CBT, such as poor access, remote locations, stigmas around help-seeking, the wish to handle the problem alone, the preference for anonymity, and costs (time and financial). A large number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have tested the acceptability, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of ICBT for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and associated suicidality. A meta-review was conducted by searching PsycINFO and PubMed for previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses of ICBT programs for anxiety, depression, and suicidality in children, adolescents, and adults. The results of the meta-review indicated that ICBT is effective in the treatment and prevention of mental health problems in adults and the treatment of these problems in youth. Issues of adherence and privacy have been raised. However, the major challenge for ICBT is implementation and uptake in the “real world.” The challenge is to find the best methods to embed, deliver, and implement ICBT routinely in complex health and education environments.
Kathleen Someah, Christopher Edwards, and Larry E. Beutler
There are many approaches to psychotherapy, commonly called “schools” or “theories.” These schools range from psychoanalytic, to variations of insight- and conflict-based approaches, through behavioral and cognitive behavioral approaches, to humanistic/existential approaches, and finally to integrative and eclectic approaches. Different and seemingly new approaches typically have been informed by older and more established ones. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the more widely used approaches, evolved from traditional behavior therapy but has become sufficiently distinct by adding its own complex variations so as functionally to represent an approach of its own. New approaches abound both in number and in complexity. Modern clinicians have had to become increasingly widely read and creative in trying to understand the ways in which patients may be helped. The sheer number of approaches, which has climbed into the hundreds, has challenged the field to find ways of ensuring that the treatments presented are effective. The advent of Evidence Based Practices (EBP) throughout the healthcare fields has placed the responsibility on those who advocate for particular types of treatment scientifically to demonstrate their efficacy and effectiveness. While this movement has brought standards to the field and has offered some assurance that psychotherapy is usually helpful, there remains much debate about whether the many different schools produce different results from one another. The debate about how best to optimize positive effects of psychotherapy continues, and there remain many questions to be asked of psychotherapy theories and of research on these approaches.
Stuart Linke and Elizabeth Murray
Alcohol-use disorders are widespread and associated with a greatly increased risk of health-related and societal harms. The majority of harms associated with consumption are experienced by those who drink above recommended guidelines, rather than those who are alcohol dependent. Brief interventions and treatments based on screening questionnaires and feedback have been developed for this group, which are effective tools for reducing consumption in primary care and in other settings. Most people who drink excessively do not receive help to reduce the risks associated with excessive consumption. Digital versions of brief and extended interventions have the potential to reach populations that might derive benefit from them. Digital interventions utilize the same principles as do traditional face-to-face versions, but they have the advantages of availability, confidentiality, flexibility, low marginal costs, and treatment integrity. The evidence for the feasibility, acceptability, costs, and effectiveness of digital interventions is encouraging, and the evidence for effectiveness is particularly strong in studies of student populations. There are, however, a number of unresolved questions. It is not clear which components of interventions are required to maximize effectiveness, whether digital versions are enhanced by the addition of personal contact from a facilitator or a health professional, or how to increase take up of the offer of a digital intervention and reduce attrition from a program. These questions are common to many online behavior-change interventions and there are opportunities for cross-disciplinary learning between psychologists, health professionals, computer scientists, and e-health researchers.