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Treating Anxiety: The Key is Motivation

David Burns on the Paradox of Resistance

According to renowned expert on anxiety David Burns, far and away the biggest barrier to treating it successfully– sometimes even in a single session– is recognizing how many clients covertly hold onto their symptoms, even when they restrict their lives and seem to cause them enormous distress.

That’s because, deep down, they believe that their anxiety protects them more than it disrupts their lives. Add to that the fact that so much anxiety treatment involves some form of exposure to the very thing that causes them so much discomfort, clients have pretty compelling reasons to resist the onerous process of transforming their anxiety. That’s why the drop-out rates for anxiety treatment are so high.

Recently David has discovered that through a method that directly addresses the perceived perils of change in the very first session of therapy, he was able to forge an entirely different kind of collaborative alliance with client from the get-go. He began to see results beyond anything he had previously achieved in his long and distinguished career. The key was not starting the process of treatment before the client was truly ready to begin.

In this clip, David tells the memorable tale of a case that pivoted dramatically on what he calls this “paradoxical agenda-setting.”

David is just one of the six innovators included in our upcoming video webcast series on Treating Anxiety: The Latest Advances. It offers a vivid look at the practical methods experts on anxiety treatment like Reid Wilson, Danie Beaulieu, Steve Andreas, Lynn Lyons and Margaret Wehrenberg have to offer that can expand your own clinical repertoire with psychotherapy’s most common presenting problem. To learn more about this exciting new webcast, click here.

To learn more about the latest developments in understanding anxiety, its roots in our neurophysiology and practical methods for effective treatment, check out these free articles:

“10 Best Ever Anxiety Management Techniques” by Margaret Wehrenberg and “The Language of the Nervous System” by Laurie Leitch and Elaine Miller-Karas.

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3 Responses to Treating Anxiety: The Key is Motivation

  1. Evelyn Goodman says:

    I agree with David Burns that motivation/resistance is an important part of the treatment process. However, I’ve found that often clients are very motivated at the beginning of
    treatment but may lose it as the process moves on, for
    various reasons.

  2. Nancy Cetlin says:

    Didn’t Milton Erickson develop this type of approach some decades ago? Being a long time subscriber to The Family Therapy Networker, now The Psychotherapy Networker, I think quite a few articles about Erickson’s work were published during a certain period.

  3. Marina Bluvshtein says:

    This is impressive, and speaks for David Burns’ passion and expertise. This is not groundbreaking though – 100 years ago, Dr. Alfred Adler wrote about purposefulness of symptoms. As someone just wrote to me, will Adler ever get a credit? Then, later, systems therapists used and are still using paradoxical intentions.

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