Cognitive Behavior Therapies

Anxiety, OCD, and Depression

Everyone feels anxiety, fear, or sadness at one time or another. These are natural responses that help us cope with danger, threats, and loss. However, when these symptoms are persistent or have an adverse effect on daily living, they may represent a more serious condition, such as an anxiety disorder or depression.

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program at The Family Institute specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and depressive disorders. Using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), clinicians work collaboratively with their clients to identify personalized, time-limited therapy goals and strategies, which are then continually monitored and evaluated throughout treatment. If you think that you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, OCD or depression, or if you would like additional information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a brief form of psychotherapy, which has been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. CBT is a problem-focused, skills-based treatment intervention that teaches clients how to identify and modify the unhelpful behavior and thinking patterns that may cause or increase anxiety and distress. CBT usually focuses on difficulties in the here and now and relies on the therapist and client developing a shared view of the client's problem.


What Conditions are Treated?
  • A Panic Attack is a sudden rush of intense fear or anxiety. Physical symptoms may include rapid heartbeat, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and/or sweating.
  • A Panic Disorder includes a frequent occurrence of unexpected panic attacks and excessive worry about having panic attacks.
  • Agoraphobia is the persistent avoidance of situations that could trigger panic attacks. Common examples include avoiding crowds, driving, shopping, being alone, or being far from home or a hospital.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves excessive worrying. Other symptoms include muscle tension, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and the feeling of being keyed up or on edge.
  • Specific Phobia is the exaggerated fear of a specific situation or objects. Even though a person may recognize that his or her fear is excessive, the situation or object is still avoided. Common phobias include the fear of dogs, flying, heights, blood, or injections.
  • Social Phobia is the excessive fear of being observed by, criticized, or embarrassed in front of others. People with social phobias exhibit excessive dread and try to avoid situations such as public speaking, eating in front of others, and going to parties.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is when a person has recurrent, distressing thoughts or ritualized behavior such as excessive hand washing. People with obsessive-compulsive disorders are often aware that the behavior is unreasonable.
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in one’s physical appearance. Although these perceived flaws are not observable to others, the individual feels driven to perform excessive, repetitive behaviors or mental acts in response to the appearance concerns.
  • Hair-pulling/Trichotillomania is the recurrent pulling out of one’s hair that then results in noticeable bald patches.
  • Skin-picking/Excoriation is recurrent skin picking that results in skin lesions.
  • Health Anxiety is an excessive preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness. Although somatic symptoms are not present or, if are present, are mild, the individual experiences a high level of anxiety about his or her health and performs health-related behaviors, such as repeatedly checking for signs of illness, or exhibits maladaptive avoidance.
  • Depression is unlike the normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states. It is persistent and can interfere significantly with an individual's ability to function. It's more than the blues, yet many still view it as "personal weakness" or a "character flaw."


How Long Does Treatment Take?

Effective treatment requires that each client have a highly individualized plan for treatment, follow-up and after-care. Because every client is different, the number of treatment sessions will vary. Many problems can be treated in individual therapy sessions lasting 12 to 20 weeks.


How do I get started?

The first step is a complete assessment of the problem. Clients participate in a detailed and comprehensive interview about past and present problems with depression, anxiety, panic and related conditions. They are also asked to fill out a variety of questionnaires designed to determine exactly what triggers the problem and identify the severity of their particular symptoms. This crucial step results in an explicit, understandable and flexible treatment plan that accurately reflects the client's own individual needs. Clients are also encouraged to have a comprehensive physical examination with their own medical doctor.

If you think that you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression, or if you would like additional information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


How Much Does This Cost?

Psychotherapists in The Family Institute Staff Practice set their fees individually based on their levels of training and expertise. (Discuss fees with Registration and your therapist prior to the first visit.) However, most therapists are participating providers with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. If you are a member of another health plan, your therapist will provide you with documentation that can be submitted to your plan to obtain out-of-network reimbursement, when applicable.

Services at reduced fees are provided by our therapists-in-training and Doctoral students, under the close supervision of highly-experienced Family Institute staff therapists. Such fees are set on a sliding-fee scale, according to the client's ability to pay. Occasionally, anxiety-related research studies are also available and enable qualified clients to participate in the latest treatments at no cost.


Who We Are

The program is headed by Northwestern University faculty members Thomas Alm, PsyD and Richard E. Zinbarg, PhD. Other CBT therapists specializing in the treatment of anxiety, OCD and depression are Kelly Dunn, MA, LPCVelizar Nikiforov, MA, LPC, and Sara Morrow, MSMFT.



As a research institution, The Family Institute at Northwestern University conducts studies on certain types of conditions and the effectiveness of particular treatment methods. Anxiety is one of the areas being investigated by clinicians in the Anxiety and Panic Treatment Program. The research is conducted by The Family Institute and/or Northwestern University's Department of Psychology. Qualifying research participants can receive treatment at no cost.

No information about clients is used for research purposes without the explicit and informed, written consent of the client. For more information about anxiety and panic research, contact Richard E. Zinbarg, PhD, at 847-733-4300.