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J Anxiety Disord. 2017 Mar;46:35-45. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.06.003. Epub 2016 Jun 18.

False Safety Behavior Elimination Therapy: A randomized study of a brief individual transdiagnostic treatment for anxiety disorders.

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Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States.
Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States. Electronic address:


In response to the ever-growing number of CBT based therapy protocols, transdiagnostic approaches to anxiety treatment, based on models of anxiety emphasizing common elements across anxiety disorders, have been increasingly explored. The aim of the current study was to test the efficacy of an individually administered, brief (5-session) transdiagnostic treatment for anxiety disorders. The current treatment (called F-SET) focuses chiefly on the elimination of anxiety maintaining behaviors and cognitive strategies (so-called "safety" aids) among individuals suffering from a range of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and panic disorder (PD). Patients (N=28; mean age=28.5years; 75% female; 71% White) were randomly assigned to F-SET or waitlist control conditions. Participants were assessed prior to, immediately after, and 1-month following treatment. In addition to independent assessments of diagnostic status, standardized self-report measures and assessor ratings of severity and distress associated with anxiety symptoms were used. Participants in the F-SET condition experienced significantly less anxiety (Cohen's d=2.01) and depression (Cohen's d=2.16) than those in the WL condition. Mediational analysis showed that change in avoidance strategies mediated the group changes in anxiety symptoms. The results from the current study are an important first step in identifying a simpler, focused form of CBT that can be delivered with minimal therapist training, at a low cost and with minimal client contact time.


Anxiety disorders; Cognitive behavior therapy; Safety aids; Safety behaviors; Transdiagnostic treatment

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