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The Complete CBT Guide for Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide for Anxiety, Panic, Social Anxiety, Phobias, Health Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Edited by Roz Shafran, Lee Brosan, Peter Cooper, Constable & Robinson, 2013, £14.99, pb, 464 pp. ISBN: 9781849018968

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Rory Conn*
Liaison CAMHs, Whittington Hospital, London, UK, email:
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Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2013

‘There are lots of books on overcoming anxiety… many of them based on cognitive behavioural therapy. So why write another?’ The book’s opening sentence sets the scene for its unique aim: to cross the divide between a traditional teaching aid for the clinician, a self-help guide for the patient, and a supportive manual for the carer. The subtitle’s length suggests ambition (or lack of boundaries) in its scope. Little wonder that the ‘complete’ text of 16 international authors extends to almost 500 pages - ironically, inducing anxiety in its deadline-conscious reviewer!

Fortunately, this is neither a jack-of-all-trades amalgam nor an exhausting read. It is coherently divided three-ways: Part 1 is a primer on the diversity of anxiety disorders, the nature of cognitive errors and the principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT); Part 2 a series of chapters on each condition, including disorder-specific techniques; Part 3 a section focused on relapse prevention.

The importance of a clinician-led diagnosis is emphasised from the outset, although the reader is invited in Part 1 to self-diagnose their anxiety subtype (using an IAPT flow scheme), then direct themselves to relevant later chapters. Useful case studies provide narrative context to symptom clusters and visually appealing flowcharts make complex ideas approachable. Also helpful are the ‘key messages’ and practical ‘tips for supporters’ which punctuate each section. There are thoughtful asides covering practical challenges, such as how one might monitor anxious thoughts in real time, or keep contemporaneous notes if one has dyslexia. Carers are helpfully advised on assisting with thought experiments. Most useful for this reviewer was the comprehensive 40-page appendix of blank worksheets, ranging from social phobia rating scales to panic diaries and behaviour record sheets. Such invaluable reference tools might be easily handed to a patient seen in a busy clinic or ward round.

Because of its broad target audience, the book employs a conversational tone, which will not universally appeal. Its style does, however, allow engagement with the subject matter and convey a sense of optimism which might not become a more formal manual. The book is perhaps most suitable for a core trainee gaining basic skills in CBT, or as a recommendation to patient and family, keen to tackle an anxiety disorder with a unified front. As most books of its type concentrate on only one disorder, the text might particularly benefit the patient with multiple comorbid anxiety disorders.

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