Anxiety Disorders: Beyond Behavioral and Medication Treatments

Developed by Garry Cooper, LCSW
Course materials are available as articles.

There is an old joke that says, “If you can keep your head about you while everyone else is losing theirs, then you probably don’t understand the situation.” In these anxious times, when more and more people are suffering with anxiety, it’s imperative that therapists DO understand the situation and DO remain clear and calm. Research suggests that anxiety has reached near epidemic proportions-a trend that was underway even before 9/11. This course is designed to help soothe therapists’ anxiety by providing information on anxiety disorder treatments, which will convince you that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. You do not have to let your clients’ anxiety stoke your own anxiety-which, if the research is correct, is probably already running a bit high. If you can control your own anxiety, you are less likely to immediately, automatically reach for the medical and strictly behavioral treatments, which, although occasionally useful, are not automatic panaceas and are not always the wisest, most growth-oriented treatments. The information in this course will help you maintain your own perspective on causes and treatments for anxiety disorders. In doing so you will not only have a wider repertoire of treatments available, but you will also be able to model for your anxious clients what they most need: a calm, fully present, deeply listening, and knowledgeable therapist.

This intermediate course is composed of four sections of articles to read. The first section provides a general overview of the symptoms and types of anxiety disorders. The second section describes the surprising prevalence of anxiety disorders. The third section offers information on several of the many medications used to treat anxiety disorders and concludes with a warning about them. The fourth section describes various psychotherapies and alternative treatments. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.


  • Clarke, David D., (2016). Diagnosis and treatment of medically unexplained symptoms and chronic functional syndromes. Families, Systems, & Health, Vol 34 (4), Dec 2016, 309-316. Special Section: Medically Unexplained Symptoms.
  • Milrod, B., Markowitz, J. C., Gerber, A. J., Cyranowski, J., Altemus, M., Shapiro, T., … & Glatt, C. (2014). Childhood separation anxiety and the pathogenesis and treatment of adult anxiety. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171 (1), 34-43.
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2011). Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults: Management. Retrieved from

Listen to Garry Cooper’s Podcast on John Riolo’s Insider Internet Radio show

Educational Objectives

  • Identify the symptoms and types of anxiety disorders from a variety of psychological perspectives.
  • Describe treatment guidelines for various kinds of anxiety disorders.
  • Explain the prevalence of anxiety disorders.
  • Identify the kinds of medications used to treat anxiety disorders and the possible side effects.


Defining the Disease

  • Basic behavioral definitions and descriptions
  • Psychodynamic view of definitions, symptoms and descriptions
  • Spiritual dimensions of anxiety disorders; anxiety disorders as a normal response and indicator of growth

Prevalence of Anxiety

  • Anxiety is often misdiagnosed as a medical condition
  • Anxiety is sharply increasing among young and adult Americans

Treatment Guidelines

  • Decision-tree guidelines
  • Information on specific medications: mechanisms, side effects, interactions
  • An argument against medications

Effective Psychotherapies and Treatments

  • Alternative treatments: pets and massage
  • Addressing spiritual concerns
  • Effective psychodynamic therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • An overview of treatments from National Institute of Mental Health