The Journey with Therapists New to CBT for Anxiety and OCD Begins

Elizabeth Spencer

This past week I had the privilege of spending two days presenting the live version of our 12-hour CBT course to 46 therapists in Woburn, MA. We work with many people virtually, which allows us to connect with people in remote or rural areas, and with people who can’t travel due to work and family obligations. We love our online community and hearing from those of you who have taken the training. Kimberly and I have worked hard over the last three years to put together this training. Whether you take it in person or online, know that you are getting the latest from the field of anxiety disorder treatment combined with the warmth, empathy, and most of all, our understanding of the potential barriers for therapists to learn these techniques. We hear fantastic feedback from our course! Being in front of a live audience gave me a front-seat view of these therapist’s growth and transformation.
For me, working with new therapists is very much like my experience every time I work with a new client. Therapist and client alike, everyone starts out with a lot of questions and concern. Will CBT work for me and my clients? Am I able to manage participating in exposures? Can I stand the symptoms that arise when I do this work? These therapists were much like every other audience I have worked with, having no experience with ERP, and being somewhat freaked out at the prospect of having to learn something they considered difficult or even worse potentially harmful to their clients. I love this about therapists! We are such helping group of people, our fear is that we might harm our clients! The evidence is clear, however, on this point – ERP is the evidence-based treatment for anxiety and OCD. We are not harming our clients by doing ERP, we are harming them if we don’t offer them ERP.

Together, we spent time with the research about ERP, but mostly we did ERP for ourselves. Sure, we also watched some videos and demonstrations (thank you, brave audience volunteers!) but it’s the personal DOING of the hard exposures that shows us all, therapist and client, we are tougher than we think and we grow strong by challenging our brains to do things that make us anxious. By the end of the two days, therapists had specific goals for next steps to take with specific clients. They also had the practical steps to take like how to structure a session and how to set up a hierarchy, in order to make this step successful. No one is able to figure out how to do this work all the time, so they know to find support from AnxietyTraining, colleagues, or professional organizations. Again, just like with clients, it was hard to say goodbye, but I know they are ready to get to work – you got this!

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