Psychological Treatment of Anxiety: The Evolution of Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2009;5:97-119. doi: 10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.032408.153635.


The development of evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders is a major achievement of clinical psychology, and cognitive behavior therapy is the best-established and most widely used method. The first form of this therapy, behavior therapy, was a combination of Pavlovian and Behavioristic ideas and methods and was particularly successful in reducing fears. The infusion of cognitive ideas in the late 1970s generated the wider and more flexible cognitive behavior therapy that independent agencies in the United States and United Kingdom now recommend as the treatment of choice for most of the anxiety disorders. Remaining theoretical problems and clinical limitations need to be tackled.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / history
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy / history*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / history
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • United Kingdom
  • United States