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Effective Psychological Treatments for Anxiety Disorders: Science, Policy and Economics

Joint British Academy / British Psychological Society Lecture, delivered by Professor David Clark FBA, on 17 October 2008 (venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, London School of Economics).

Persistent problems with anxiety are common and disabling. A cognitive science approach to developing new and effective psychological treatments for anxiety is described and illustrated. The approach assumes that excessively negative beliefs about the dangerousness of certain situations and/or internal states (thoughts, images, body sensations) lie at the heart of anxiety disorders. Treatment (termed ‘cognitive therapy’) focuses on changing such beliefs and the factors that maintain them. Randomized controlled trials have shown that cognitive therapy is highly effective. However, it is often not available. Ways of overcoming obstacles to dissemination are discussed, with a particular emphasis on the Government’s new ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ initiative.

Professor David Clark FBA is Professor of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy in 2003. His research focuses on cognitive approaches to the understanding and treatment of anxiety disorders. Awards have included: the May Davidson Award (British Psychological Society), the Academy of Cognitive Therapy’s Research Award, being voted a World Leader in Anxiety Disorders Research by members of the Anxiety Disorders of America Association (1998), and the Behaviour Research and Therapy Award for the most outstanding article (‘A Cognitive Approach to Panic’).

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