Current approaches to treating Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Prof. Colette Hirsch

Thursday, 3 November 2022


Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a debilitating condition, characterized by negative interpretations about ambiguous situations. Therapists find GAD hard to treat. Understanding how bouts of worry start and what keeps them in GAD can be particularly helpful when formulating and intervening with GAD. Theory-driven experimental research guided selection and refinements of CBT techniques for GAD. Hirsch and Mathews’ (2012) model specifies three key research-supported processes that maintain uncontrollable worry in GAD: implicit cognitive biases such as negative interpretation bias and attention bias, generalized verbal thinking style, and impaired ability to re-direct attentional control away from worry. Specific CBT techniques that target were adapted to maximise impact on these key processes are focused on in CBT sessions.

The event will be equivalent to 5.1/2hrs of CPD.


This workshop will:
• Define the evidence-based model of GAD with clinical illustrations.
• Explain how initial negative thoughts transition to protracted worry.
• Explore the critical role of emotional processing biases in augmenting and maintaining the impact of worry.
• Present implications for treatment of pathological worry.
• Discuss the cognitive behavioural treatment options for adults with GAD and how treatment options can be tailored to the needs of each person presenting with GAD.

Learning Objectives

You will gain:
1. Knowledge on how to conceptualise GAD from a cognitive process perspective.
2. An understanding of how to apply the model to a case of GAD.
3. Knowledge of the evidence-based interventions in keeping with the model.
4. Knowledge of how to tackle common stuck points when working with people with GAD.

Training Modalities

Didactic teaching, case examples, videos, polls, Q&A.

Key References

Hirsch, C.R., Beale, S., Grey, N. & Liness, S. (2019). Approaching Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder from a Cognitive Process Perspective. Frontiers of Psychiatry, 10:796. 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00796
Hirsch, C. R., Krahé, C., Whyte, J., Krzyzanowski, H., Meeten, F., Norton, S., & Mathews, A. (2021). Internet-delivered interpretation training reduces worry and anxiety in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized controlled experiment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 89(7), 575–589.
Hirsch, C.R. & Mathews, A. (2012). A cognitive model of pathological worry. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 50(10), 636-646.

About the presenter

Prof Colette Hirsch is a Professor of Cognitive Clinical Psychology and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist. She completed her PhD at Cambridge and her Doctorate of Clinical Psychology at King’s College London. As a Beck Institute Scholar and Academy of Cognitive and Behavoral Therapies Fellow, she leads the Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) CBT service at the Center for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Prof Hirsch’s is known for her theoretical, experimental and clinical work on cognitive processes that maintain emotional disorders, and she has used this to develop new psychological interventions for emotional disorders including GAD. Her programmatic approach also led to new experimental paradigms, theoretical ideas and advances in our understanding of how cognitive processes combine to maintain distress. While this work initially focused on social anxiety disorder, her group went on to focus on worry and GAD. Her other recent research examines cognitive processes that maintain distress in people with physical health problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, and Parkinson’s. Her more recent work has looked at resilience in Breast Cancer Survivors, mechanisms that maintain resilience in teachers and the role of repetitive negative thinking in pregnant women.

Who should attend

This workshop will be suitable for CBT practitioners delivering interventions for patients in primary care or IAPT services presenting with Generalised Anxiety Disorder.