Science-Based Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Anxiety
A cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) approach that emphasises facing one’s fears, reducing avoidance, improving distress tolerance, and increasing engagement in values-consistent behaviour - known as exposure therapy - is the most scientifically proven way to overcome most anxiety problems. This approach has been tested in hundreds of studies and is the recommended treatment for anxiety by professional organisations around the world, including the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. According to the Australian Psychological Society, this form of therapy has more evidence to support its effectiveness, by far, than any other psychological approach to anxiety. The Illawarra Anxiety Clinic specialises in this therapy.
What Exposure-Based CBT is NOT
1. Exposure-based CBT is NOT the same as "CBT." CBT is an umbrella term that describes many different approaches that vary widely in their effectiveness and scientific support and often have little in common with each other. Exposure therapy is a specific approach to therapy based on a specific philosophy, and a scientific understanding of anxiety, that emphasises facing one's fears directly to overcome them. Exposure enjoys more scientific support than any other form of therapy for any mental health problem (learn more about this approach to therapy here). It is NOT the same as "CBT" as it is typically practiced in the community which typically de-emphasises exposure in favour of feel-good but less effective "coping skills" like controlled breathing, relaxation, mindfulness, and realistic/positive thinking. Most clients don't find that such techniques help them overcome their anxiety, and research suggests these techniques don't provide any benefits above and beyond exposure therapy. These "skills" can act like a superficial psychological band-aid that may temporarily reduce anxiety but fails to address the core processes that maintain anxiety in the longer-term. In contrast to generic "CBT," exposure-based CBT emphasises a single powerful approach with the goal of helping clients fully overcome their anxiety and reach their full potential. My experience and research indicate that most therapists claim to provide CBT, but only a small percentage offer exposure-based CBT, and fewer still have specific training and expertise in this approach.
2. Exposure therapy is NOT an approach where the practitioner has nothing to offer beyond being a good listener who nods when the client speaks and rephrases what the client just said. Similarly, it does NOT involve unstructured, directionless conversation, or an emphasis on chatting about "how things are going this week." I am an expert in the science of human psychology, and sharing this expertise with my clients and helping them act on it, in the context of a strong collaborative relationship, is the essence of my practice.
3. Exposure therapy is NOT an approach where the therapist acts like a "blank slate" who shows no emotion, reads hidden meaning into the client's every action, and causes the client to wonder "what is my therapist really thinking about me?" That is not how two people of equal status should interact nor what it looks like for therapists to be genuine with their clients.
4. Exposure therapy does NOT focus on one's childhood in order to connect present-day struggles to repressed memories of early life traumas. Gaining insight into the origins of one's issues does not make them disappear (if it did, there would be no such thing as post traumatic stress!). Exposure therapists focus largely on the present and making behaviour changes that promote adaptive learning and valued living.
5. Exposure therapy does NOT involve gimmicky techniques like tapping the client's body, wagging the therapist's fingers back and forth in the client's field of view, playing with figures in a sand tray, uncovering repressed childhood memories, and so on. Such pseudoscientific nonsense is an embarrassment to a profession that is meant to be evidence-based and has no place in a credible approach for overcoming anxiety.
Issues We Address
I specialise in helping clients with anxiety-related problems, for which exposure therapy is the most effective therapy available. I also work with clients to manage stress, overcome depression, change unwanted behavioural habits, experience personal growth, and live a more rich, full, and meaningful life. Learn more...
Values and Philosophy
The Illawarra Anxiety Clinic's core value is "the needs of the client come first." I emphasise a strong collaborative relationship and treat my clients with respect and compassion. My approach is active, focuses mostly on the present, and emphasises behaviour change. I have strong scientific values and in-depth knowledge of the research on psychological and drug approaches to anxiety and other psychological issues. I also reject the unscientific and disempowering notion that psychological problems are medical diseases caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Learn more...
Approach to Therapy: Just Do It!
Due to its strong scientific support, CBT is now so popular that nearly every therapist claims to provide it. However, there are many different approaches to CBT, and some are more science-based and effective than others. The most powerful and straightforward approach to overcoming anxiety emphasises exposure therapy, and I specialise in this approach. Learn more...