At our Extramural Workshop last week, we had about 40 trainees from around the world participate in a two-day Cognitive Therapy training focused on Anxiety and Panic Disorders (the trainees are mental health professionals enrolled in the Beck Institute’s Cognitive Therapy supervision program – they send tapes/CDs or transcripts of therapy sessions to their Beck Institute supervisor for review and feedback, and also participate in our on-site training workshops).

One of the highlights of last week’s workshop was when trainees were able to give case histories of challenging patients, and get advice directly from Dr. Aaron Beck, the founding father of Cognitive Therapy. Several trainees role played with Dr. Beck, with the trainee playing the part of his/her patient, and Dr. Beck playing the part of the therapist. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Beck cut to the underlying beliefs that the ‘patients’ had, using the “Downward Arrow Technique” that helps the patient identify the ‘worst possible consequence’ of what he/she is afraid of, and then the worst consequence of that, and so on, until his/her deepest anxiety about the situation is uncovered.

Dr. Beck roleplayed with a ‘patient’ who had an intellectual handicap, and reported that he felt anxious whenever he looked in the mirror. He would have the thought, “I’m getting older.” Dr. Beck kept asking him for the meaning of this thought. Ultimately, the patient said he was afraid that his ‘getting older’ meant that his parents were getting older also, and he was worried about what would happen to him when his parents died. Dr. Beck did some problem solving with him, and the patient felt quite relieved when he realized that he could count on his brothers to assist him. His brothers didn’t currently help him because their parents were filling that role, but the patient realized that his brothers would be there to help him with future life challenges if his parents passed away…

Here are a few more photos from the workshop: