Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder (2022)

Table of Contents
Journal of Anxiety Disorders Abstract Method Results Conclusion Introduction Section snippets Participants Demographic characteristics Discussion References (29) Behavior Therapy General Hospital Psychiatry Behaviour Research and Therapy Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation: effects on psychological symptomatology, sense of control and spiritual experiences Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Beck anxiety inventory manual Comparison of the Beck Depression Inventories-IA and II in psychiatric outpatients Journal of Personality Assessment Psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder Journal of Clinical Psychiatry A component analysis of cognitive behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety disorder and the role of interpersonal problems Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology Comorbidity among anxiety disorders: implications for treatment and DSM-IV Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology The benefits of being present: the role of mindfulness in psychological well-being Journal of Personality and Social Psychology The empirical basis of generalized anxiety disorder American Journal of Psychiatry Comparison of behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology Structured clinical interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorder (SCID-I) Cited by (337) Effects of group mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and group cognitive behavioural therapy on symptomatic generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled noninferiority trial Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: A Preliminary Examination of the (Event-Related) Potential for Modifying Threat-Related Attentional Bias in Anxiety Recommended articles (6) FAQs Videos

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Journal of Anxiety Disorders

Volume 22, Issue 4,

May 2008

, Pages 716-721


While cognitive behavior therapy has been found to be effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a significant percentage of patients struggle with residual symptoms. There is some conceptual basis for suggesting that cultivation of mindfulness may be helpful for people with GAD. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a group treatment derived from mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues. MBSR uses training in mindfulness meditation as the core of the program. MBCT incorporates cognitive strategies and has been found effective in reducing relapse in patients with major depression (Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., Ridgeway, V., Soulsby, J., & Lau, M. (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 6, 615–623).


Eligible subjects recruited to a major academic medical center participated in the group MBCT course and completed measures of anxiety, worry, depressive symptoms, mood states and mindful awareness in everyday life at baseline and end of treatment.


Eleven subjects (six female and five male) with a mean age of 49 (range=36–72) met criteria and completed the study. There were significant reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms from baseline to end of treatment.


MBCT may be an acceptable and potentially effective treatment for reducing anxiety and mood symptoms and increasing awareness of everyday experiences in patients with GAD. Future directions include development of a randomized clinical trial of MBCT for GAD.

(Video) Mindfulness-based therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder online


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), characterized by long-term, intense, and excessive worry, is a chronic, relatively common disorder with high rates of co-morbidity (Brown & Barlow, 1992). The estimated lifetime prevalence rate for GAD is 5.7% (Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, & Walters, 2005), and the diagnosis is associated with considerable distress and impairment in social and occupational functioning (Maier et al., 2000).

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been found to be efficacious in the treatment of GAD (Borkovec & Ruscio, 2001; Borkovec, Newman, Lytle, & Pincus, 2002; Butler, Fennell, Robson, & Gelder, 1991; Ladouceur et al., 2000). Borkovec and Ruscio (2001) point out the typical CBT approach for GAD involves training clients to detect internal and external anxiety cues and to employ strategies to manage the psychological and somatic symptoms. While CBT is effective in treating the disorder, GAD nonetheless remains the least successfully treated of the anxiety disorders (Brown, Barlow, & Liebowitz, 1994). Ninan (2001) points out that nearly twice as many patients in treatment for GAD achieve partial remission as those who achieve full remission and indicates the persistence of residual symptoms in many who respond to treatment.

Roemer and Orsillo (2002) provide a conceptual understanding of integrating mindfulness and acceptance-based perspectives to the extant models and treatment of GAD. Mindfulness, moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness, is cultivated through the regular practice of mindfulness meditation and emphasizes an open awareness to the contents of the mind. Roemer and Orsillo (2002) point out that since the nature of worry is future directed, training in present-moment mindful awareness may provide a useful alternative way of responding for individuals with GAD. Astin (1997) suggests that the techniques of mindfulness meditation help the person to develop a stance of detached observation towards the contents of consciousness and may be a useful cognitive behavioral coping strategy.

The mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues (Kabat-Zinn, 1990) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School helps individuals develop mindfulness through intensive training in mindfulness meditation. MBSR is an intensive, structured, client-centered approach that has been used successfully in a range of clinical settings, hospitals and schools. MBSR is integral to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002) which has been found useful for the prevention of relapse in depression (Teasdale et al., 2000). Some other cognitive behavioral psychotherapies, such as dialectal behavior therapy (Linehan, 1993) and acceptance and commitment therapy (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999), include mindfulness and acceptance strategies. Currently, there are a few non-randomized trials of MBSR for anxiety disorders (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1992; Miller, Fletcher, & Kabat-Zinn, 1995) that suggest intensive training in mindfulness meditation may be helpful in reducing anxiety. In a recent open trial of acceptance-based behavior therapy for GAD, Roemer and Orsillo (2007) found that patients who received a treatment combining CBT and learning and practicing mindfulness and acceptance-based strategies experienced significant reductions in symptoms and improvement in quality of life.

However, a recent report published by the Cochrane Collaboration (Krisanaprakornkit, Krisanaprakornkit, Piyavhatkul, & Laopaiboon, 2006) raises a question as to the feasibility and acceptability of meditation based treatments for GAD. This report focused only on randomized clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of meditation for anxiety disorders. Only 2 of 50 studies, one involving transcendental meditation and the other utilizing kundalini yoga, met the rigorous inclusion criteria. Drop out rate was quite high in both studies and could suggest that the intensity and adherence to practicing regular meditation in individuals suffering from anxiety disorders may be of significant consideration. The authors concluded that the small number of studies did not permit conclusions to be drawn on the effectiveness of meditation for anxiety disorders and suggested that more trials are needed.

One rationale for testing new treatments for GAD is related to the fact that despite effective therapies, the persistence of residual GAD symptoms in treatment responders is a problem. Conceptually, it makes sense that the development of mindfulness in individuals with GAD would be beneficial since a mindful state of being captures a quality of consciousness that is characterized by a clarity and vividness of current experience (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Nonetheless, practice of mindfulness meditation is demanding for anyone and may present particular challenges to individuals with GAD whose contents of mental consciousness are for most of the time oriented away from present moment to moment awareness.

The purpose of the study was to investigate whether an open trial of an 8-week group mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program that focused on intensive training in mindfulness meditation and integrated principles of cognitive behavior therapy would be an acceptable and effective treatment for patients suffering from GAD.

Section snippets


Participants were recruited to this academic medical institution via posted notices around the hospital and letters sent to the faculty. A clinical psychologist or psychiatrist screened interested subjects for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Inclusion criteria were (a) 18–80 years of age, (b) English speaking, (c) medically stable, (d) met criteria for GAD determined by the modified version of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM IV (First, Spitzer, Gibbon, & Williams, 1997). Since the

Demographic characteristics

Of 36 subjects who were screened for the study, 12 met inclusion criteria and participated in the study. Eight patients were excluded due to co-morbid major depression. Several patients screened either did not meet criteria for GAD or were no longer able to commit to the 8-week program once the group was scheduled. One subject was excluded from the final data analysis because of the onset of a medical problem during the 8-week trial. Results are reported on the 11 subjects (6 female and 5 male)


Results from this small open trial of MBCT for GAD demonstrate that subjects in the study, as a group, experienced a significant decrease in their anxiety, tension, worry and depressive symptoms following an 8-week group mindfulness based course. Also, patients who exhibited clinically significant symptoms of measures of anxiety, worry and depressive symptomatology experienced a drop in their symptoms comparable to those of a non-clinical population. While there was a mean increase in mindful

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  • T.J. Meyer et al.Development and validation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire

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  • D.M. Fresco et al.Using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire to identify individuals with generalized anxiety disorder: a receiver operating character analysis

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    Comorbidity among anxiety disorders: implications for treatment and DSM-IV

    (Video) The Mindful Way through Anxiety

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  • K.W. Brown et al.

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      Higher trait mindfulness may be protective against eating disorder (ED) pathology. However, little is understood about which specific mindfulness processes connect to specific ED symptoms. This study (N = 1,056 undergraduates) used network analysis at the symptom/process level to identify: (1) central nodes, or symptoms/processes with the greatest collective connection with all other symptoms/processes; and (2) bridge nodes, or symptoms/processes driving interconnection between mindfulness processes and ED symptoms. We conducted analyses both with and without food- and body-related mindfulness items. Central nodes included: describing how one feels in detail, expressing how one feels in words, and feeling guilty about eating due to shape/weight. Bridge nodes connecting higher mindfulness processes with lower ED symptoms included: the eating disorder symptom, being uncomfortable about others seeing one eat, and the mindfulness process, not criticizing oneself for having irrational/inappropriate emotions. Bridge nodes connecting higher mindfulness processes with higher ED symptoms included: noticing sensations of the body moving when walking and noticing how food/drinks affect thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions. Findings suggest that future research should explore whether mindfulness-based interventions for EDs may be more effective by targeting mindfulness processes related to describing, expressing, and accepting emotions, accepting discomfort when eating with others, and reducing hyper-focus on and reactivity to food-and-body related sensations.

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      Les recherches sur la méditation dans le champ des thérapies complémentaires et alternatives sont de plus en plus importantes. En effet, beaucoup de travaux soulignent les effets bénéfiques en termes de santé physique et psychique de la méditation. Dans le cadre des deux grandes orientations de techniques de méditation (concentration et pleine conscience), nous allons nous concentrer dans cette étude sur la méditation de concentration (méditation mantra et transcendantale). Après avoir encadré la notion à un niveau théorique, nous développerons une revue de la littérature (randomisés, comparaison avant/après) sur cette forme de pratique en ciblant précisément la méditation transcendante et de mantra ainsi que d’autres formes utilisant uniquement la concentration afin de mettre en lumière les effets thérapeutiques de cette approche sur la santé mentale et de souligner son efficacité. Cependant, nous resterons prudents quant à émettre des conclusions hâtives sur les effets bénéfiques systématiques de cette pratique en mettant en lumière l’importance des limites méthodologiques que l’on retrouve dans ces travaux depuis les quarante dernières années en proposant des pistes d’amélioration.

      Research on meditation in the field of complementary and alternative therapies is increasingly important. Indeed, many works highlight the beneficial effects in terms of physical and mental health of meditation. Within the framework of the two main directions of meditation techniques (concentration and mindfulness), we will focus in this study on concentration meditation (mantra and transcendental meditation). After having framed the notion at a theoretical level, we will develop a review of the literature (randomized, before/after comparison) on this form of practice by precisely targeting transcendent and mantra meditation as well as other forms using only concentration in order to highlight the therapeutic effects of this approach on mental health and to emphasize its effectiveness. However, we will remain cautious about issuing hasty conclusions on the systematic beneficial effects of this practice by highlighting the importance of the methodological limitations that we find in this work for the past 40years by proposing avenues for improvement.

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    What is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for anxiety? ›

    Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is designed to help people who suffer repeated bouts of depression and chronic unhappiness. It combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness.

    Does mindfulness help GAD? ›

    Research shows that various forms of mindfulness might help reduce anxiety levels and symptoms of: generalized anxiety disorder.

    Can MBCT be used for anxiety? ›

    Conclusion: MBCT may be an acceptable and potentially effective treatment for reducing anxiety and mood symptoms and increasing awareness of everyday experiences in patients with GAD. Future directions include development of a randomized clinical trial of MBCT for GAD.

    What is the best therapy for generalized anxiety? ›

    Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder.

    How do you practice mindfulness-based cognitive therapy? ›

    Other MBCT techniques include walking and sitting meditations, sitting with thoughts, and sitting with sounds.
    1. Observing your experience (How are you doing right now?)
    2. Focusing on your breath.
    3. Attending to your body and physical sensations.
    14 Jul 2021

    How does mindfulness-based cognitive therapy work? ›

    MBCT's treatment effects are mediated by augmented self-compassion and mindfulness, along with a decoupling of the relationship between reactivity of depressive thinking and poor outcome. This decoupling is associated with the cultivation of self-compassion across treatment.

    Can you fix GAD without medication? ›

    The even better news: Many people respond well to anxiety treatment without medication. They find that their condition can often be managed entirely, or at least in part, with lifestyle changes and holistic therapies.

    What should you not do with GAD? ›

    10 Things Not To Say to Someone Who Has Anxiety
    • “Calm Down!” ...
    • “It's All in Your Head” ...
    • “It's Really not a Big Deal” ...
    • “Everything Will be Fine” ...
    • “I Know How You Feel” ...
    • “Have a Drink; You'll Feel Better” ...
    • “Other People are Suffering from Much Worse Conditions” ...
    • “You Should Try Meditation/Yoga/Veganism/etc”
    16 Oct 2018

    How can I overcome GAD without medication? ›

    Here are eight simple and effective ways to battle anxiety without medication.
    1. Shout it out. Talking to a trusted friend is one way to cope with anxiety. ...
    2. Get moving. ...
    3. Break up with caffeine. ...
    4. Give yourself a bedtime. ...
    5. Feel OK saying no. ...
    6. Don't skip meals. ...
    7. Give yourself an exit strategy. ...
    8. Live in the moment.

    How do you get rid of generalized anxiety disorder naturally? ›

    Natural remedies for anxiety and stress
    1. Exercise. Share on Pinterest Exercise may help to treat anxiety. ...
    2. Meditation. Meditation can help to slow racing thoughts, making it easier to manage stress and anxiety. ...
    3. Relaxation exercises. ...
    4. Writing. ...
    5. Time management strategies. ...
    6. Aromatherapy. ...
    7. Cannabidiol oil. ...
    8. Herbal teas.

    What is first line treatment for generalized anxiety disorder? ›

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are generally considered first-line therapy for GAD and PD.

    What is the most treatable anxiety disorder? ›

    Living with anxiety can be challenging. However, like other anxiety disorders, GAD is highly treatable. Some of the most effective treatments include psychotherapy, medication, and making lifestyle changes. In this article, we provide an overview of GAD, including its symptoms and causes.

    Is MBCT better than CBT? ›

    Both MBCT and CBT work to help patients better control their thoughts, emotions, and responses to these factors. But MBCT differs from CBT by incorporating elements of mindfulness to additionally control the body's automatic responses to the stresses associated with many negative thoughts or feelings.

    Is mindfulness a DBT or CBT? ›

    CBT focuses on how your thoughts, feelings and behavior influence each other. While DBT does work on these things, emphasis is given more towards regulating emotions, being mindful, and learning to accept pain.

    Is mindfulness better than CBT? ›

    Conclusions. MBCT appears to be as effective as CBT in the treatment of current depression.

    What are examples of mindfulness based interventions? ›

    Formal meditation practices include sitting meditation, mindful movement (including walking medication and gentle yoga exercises), and the body scan, which teaches individuals to mindfully focus on bodily sensations, starting with the feet and progressively moving to the head and neck.

    What are the 4 mindfulness techniques? ›

    Next time you find your mind racing with stress, try the acronym S.T.O.P.:
    • S – Stop what you are doing, put things down for a minute.
    • T – Take a breath. ...
    • O – Observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. ...
    • P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment.

    What is the most common practice used in mindfulness based interventions? ›

    Mindfulness-based approaches are most commonly delivered through the use of mindfulness meditation, though mindfulness may be achieved through a variety of techniques. During mindfulness meditation, the practitioner will typically guide the person or people in therapy to direct their focus on the present moment.

    What are the 3 principles of mindfulness? ›

    In general, they seek to develop three key characteristics of mindfulness: Intention to cultivate awareness (and return to it again and again) Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise) Attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind.

    What are the 7 principles of mindfulness? ›

    • Non-judging. Be an impartial witness to your own experience. ...
    • Patience. A form of wisdom, patience demonstrates that we accept the fact that.
    • Beginner's Mind. Remaining open and curious allows us to be receptive to new.
    • Trust. Develop a basic trust with yourself and your feelings. ...
    • Non-Striving. ...
    • Acceptance. ...
    • Letting Go.

    Who is mindfulness-based therapy most effect for? ›

    MBCT was developed for people to prevent relapse from recurring episodes of depression or deep unhappiness. It has been proven effective in patients with major depressive disorder who have experienced at least three episodes of depression.

    What can trigger GAD? ›

    GAD can be triggered by family or environmental stress. Chronic illness and disease can also trigger GAD.

    What happens if GAD goes untreated? ›

    GAD is twice as common in women, and typically develops over a period of time during early through middle-age adulthood. If left untreated, this extreme worry can eventually interfere with the ability to carry out everyday activities such as driving a car or falling asleep.

    How does vitamin D help anxiety? ›

    The study found that taking vitamin D supplements significantly decreased anxiety levels in women suffering from type 2 diabetes. Another study found that those suffering from anxiety had lower levels of calcidiol. Broken down vitamin D produces the byproduct, calcidiol.

    Is GAD a severe mental illness? ›

    Yes; generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a serious mental illness that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

    What can make GAD worse? ›

    Avoid unhealthy substance use.

    Alcohol and drug use and even nicotine or caffeine use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you're addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious.

    Can you fully recover from GAD? ›

    Anxiety disorders can be long-lasting, but full recovery is also possible. Some studies⁵ report that generalized anxiety disorder follows a pattern of recovery and relapse for up to 20 years.

    What foods help with GAD? ›

    Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. Steer clear of foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and drinks. Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.

    What is the 3 3 3 rule anxiety? ›

    Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

    Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

    What are the best CBT techniques for anxiety? ›

    Some of the techniques that are most often used with CBT include the following 9 strategies:
    • Cognitive restructuring or reframing. ...
    • Guided discovery. ...
    • Exposure therapy. ...
    • Journaling and thought records. ...
    • Activity scheduling and behavior activation. ...
    • Behavioral experiments. ...
    • Relaxation and stress reduction techniques. ...
    • Role playing.
    12 Dec 2019

    What are cognitive strategies for anxiety? ›

    There are several strategies: 1) Acceptance that distressing thoughts occur but do not control your response 2) Dispute/correct inaccurate/unrealistic thoughts and 3) Increase cognitive flexibility. Highlight several meaningful statements and repeat them when you gain awareness of unhelpful thoughts.

    What are CBT exercises for anxiety? ›

    Two strategies often used in CBT are Calm Breathing, which involves consciously slowing down the breath, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups.

    Why is mindfulness used in the treatment of anxiety disorders? ›

    The basic premise underlying mindfulness practices is that experiencing the present moment nonjudgmentally and openly can effectively counter the effects of stressors, because excessive orientation toward the past or future when dealing with stressors can be related to feelings of depression and anxiety (e.g., Kabat- ...

    Why is CBT the best therapy for anxiety? ›

    CBT addresses anxiety by helping people make changes to the way they think and behave during times when they are anxious. CBT aims to help people interrupt and change the worried thoughts that feed into anxiety, while also helping to reduce avoidant behaviors.

    How many CBT sessions are needed for anxiety? ›

    If you have CBT on an individual basis, you'll usually meet with a CBT therapist for between 5 and 20 weekly or fortnightly sessions, with each session lasting 30 to 60 minutes. Exposure therapy sessions usually last longer to ensure your anxiety reduces during the session.

    How successful is CBT for anxiety? ›

    Does CBT For Anxiety Work? According to some studies using CBT to treat anxiety disorders can be as effective as using medication to treat anxiety disorders. Some people don't respond well to medical for disorders like depression or anxiety.

    What are the 5 cognitive strategies? ›

    Cognitive strategies are one type of learning strategy that learners use in order to learn more successfully. These include repetition, organising new language, summarising meaning, guessing meaning from context, using imagery for memorisation.

    What are the 6 cognitive strategies? ›

    Specifically, six key learning strategies from cognitive research can be applied to education: spaced practice, interleaving, elaborative interrogation, concrete examples, dual coding, and retrieval practice.

    What is the 3 3 3 method for anxiety? ›

    Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

    Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

    How do I do CBT at home? ›

    How to Practice CBT at Home
    1. Fully Focus on Your Thoughts. CBT requires an intense focus on the thoughts that come to mind throughout the day. ...
    2. Schedule Your Day with Manageable Tasks. ...
    3. Relaxation Techniques. ...
    4. Reframe Your Thought Patterns.

    What is CBT therapy examples? ›

    Examples of CBT techniques might include the following: Exposing yourself to situations that cause anxiety, like going into a crowded public space. Journaling about your thoughts throughout the day and recording your feelings about your thoughts.

    What are the three 3 major benefits of practicing mindfulness? ›

    Mindfulness can: help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, , improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

    What are 3 positive effects of mindfulness? ›

    Among its theorized benefits are self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one's self with kindness, acceptance and compassion.

    Is mindfulness better than antidepressants? ›

    There was a suggestion that MBCT might do better than medication. The reality is that it was not superior to medication.” However, they established that mindfulness-based therapy is equally as good as drugs, which could offer a new option for those who do not want to be on medication for years.


    1. CBT Generalized Anxiety Disorder (3 Tools To Reclaim Your Life!)
    (Barbara Heffernan)
    2. Best Practices for Anxiety Treatment | Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    (Doc Snipes)
    3. 3 Instantly Calming CBT Techniques For Anxiety
    (Uncommon Practitioners)
    4. Brief Behavioral Skills: CBT for Anxiety (CBT-A)
    (Northwest MHTTC)
    5. Mindfulness for Anxiety 💓 A Beginner's Guide 21/30
    (Therapy in a Nutshell)
    6. Guided Meditation for Detachment From Over-Thinking (Anxiety / OCD / Depression)
    (Michael Sealey)

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