Feeling jumpy and anxious, oppressively sad, panicked and fearful? Do you break out in a cold sweat in social situations? When these symptoms go beyond occasional stress to interfere with normal life, they may be manifestations of a psychological disorder that can be treated at one of the established programs under the umbrella of Penn Behavioral Health (pennhealth.com/behav_health)
Founded in 1994 by Aaron Beck, the Beck Institute is now run by his disciple and daughter, Judith Beck. Treatment is based on “cognitive therapy,” the groundbreaking theory developed by Beck père that won him the prestigious Lasker Award. While working as a classic analyst in the early ’60s, Beck arrived at the deceptively simple concept that the thought is the father to the feeling. In other words, eliminating negative thoughts can short-circuit the negative feelings they produce. A great advantage of cognitive therapy is its limited duration; goals are typically accomplished in 6 to 25 weekly sessions. Today, hundreds of studies have found cognitive therapy to be as effective as, or more effective than, drugs or long-term talk therapy for depression, anxiety and panic, obsessive/compulsive behavior, phobias, addictions and more. One drawback is a shortage of rigorously trained cognitive therapists — but that’s not a problem here. Judith Beck authored the best-selling book The Beck Diet Solution, which explains how to use cognitive therapy to lose weight (1 Belmont Avenue, suite 700, Bala Cynwyd, 610-664-3020, beckinstitute.org).
The Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, founded 30 years ago by anxiety expert Edna Foa (she’s still the director), has an international reputation. It uses a variety of modalities, including cognitive behavioral therapy, either alone or in conjunction with medication to relieve the full range of anxiety disorders: obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, panic attacks, generalized anxiety, phobias, trichotillomania (chronic hair pulling) and tic disorder. Low-cost options are available (3535 Market Street, sixth floor, 215-746-3327, pennhealth.com/behav_health/services/CTSA.html).
The Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program is a renowned center for high-caliber biological drug research. Treatment for a variety of mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, focuses on matching patients with appropriate investigational and current medications rather than therapy, and is free of charge (3535 Market Street, 215-898-4301, pennhealth.com/behav_health).
Social Skills Seminar for Asperger’s Syndrome is a 10-week course conducted by coaches to help people with this type of high-functioning autism who desire relationships but don’t know how to make appropriate connections. It’s aimed at teaching them to interpret social cues and improve communication and interpersonal skills (med.upenn.edu/ctsa).
Other programs and centers:
Belmont Behavioral Health, a nonprofit psychiatric hospital that’s part of Albert Einstein Health, cares for thousands of children and adolescents both in schools and in the hospital with a variety of interventions — evaluations, assessments, therapy, testing and medication management — related to disorders like anxiety, depression, suicide, sex abuse, psychotic episodes, etc. There’s a 12-bed inpatient program for kids from five to 12, and 18 beds set aside just for teens. For the critical phase when patients leave the shelter and protection of the hospital, the Therapeutic Bridge program links them and their families with support services in the community. For the Medicaid population, which so easily gets mired in bureaucratic confusion, CARAT — Child and Adolescent Rapid Assessment and Treatment Center — cuts through the red tape with quick outpatient, stabilization and therapy for kids ages three to 18, including those with autism. The Crisis Response Center is an mental emergency walk-in clinic regardless of ability to pay. There are also special workshops for parenting children with autism and ADHD (4200 Monument Road, 215-456-8000, belmontbh.com).
Based at Temple’s Episcopal Hospital campus, Temple Psychiatry and Behavioral Health is a unique, comprehensive approach integrating mental and medical treatment for an often-neglected population: the underprivileged and underserved. The facility has 74 acute-care beds and 44 for extended care, and handled 2,600 patients in 2007; 5,000 were seen as outpatients that year, while a very busy Crisis Response Center assisted more than 9,000 people. The staff blends 26 medical specialists all board-certified in psychiatry and sub-specialties like substance abuse, child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatrics, and internal medicine, with social and mental-health workers and therapists, many of whom are bilingual. There’s a special effort to address mental illness in combination with mental retardation, substance abuse, and physical ailments like diabetes and high blood pressure. Patients are offered weight loss and smoking cessation programs, and there are neuro-psychological assessments to uncover underlying causes for certain psychiatric disorders. The ADHD program evaluates children, adolescents and adults, and the Capstone Program is the only one in the region specifically for physicians and nurses addicted to drugs and alcohol (100 East Lehigh Avenue, 215-707-8496, tuh.templehealth.org/psychiatry.htm).
Loss of a loved one can be particularly painful for children who often have no way to express or process their grief. Safe Harbor (amh.org) at Abington Memorial Hospital is an ongoing bereavement support group for kids and their families that gives them the opportunity to meet with others in similar circumstances, in age-appropriate groups, under the supervision of trained personnel. A new service is Camp Charlie, a summer activity for children six to 12 using music, art and games to ease their healing (Shilling Campus, 2500 Maryland Road, Willow Grove, 215-481-5983).
Located amid lush gardens, historic Friends Hospital has been designated a national historic landmark and serves the full gamut of psychiatric needs. Friends’ outstanding care is broken into programs for specific age groups, as its administration believes peer-group treatment supports recovery. This breaks down into segregated units for children ages five through 12 and teens 13 through 18 whose symptoms prevent them from safely operating in their home, school or community. There is also care for adults 18 to 55 who need short-term hospitalization to stabilize a psychiatric disorder, older adults suffering from depression, psychosis, dementia and complications of Alzheimer’s, and a women’s program that focuses on self-esteem, abuse, time and stress management, and psychological problems ranging from depression to hormone-related postpartum and menopausal issues. The Greystone Program addresses the special concerns of adults with serious and persistent disorders, such as schizophrenia, in two assisted-living residences. There’s a 24-hour walk-in Crisis Response Center for emergency evaluations and assessment (4641 Roosevelt Boulevard, 215-860-6300, friendshospitalonline.org).