Professor Michael Otto, of Harvard University was in South Africa in February of this year to present a series of one-day workshops in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.
He is a world authority on the research into, and treatment of anxiety disorders, and more particularly, panic disorder. He has numerous publications to his name, and is involved in the graduate training of psychologists.
The workshops dealt with the cognitive-behavioural treatment of panic disorder, which research has shown to be highly efficacious, and the treatment of choice for these conditions. The presentation was not dominated by theory. There were numerous practical examples, particularly dealing with the current emphasis on interoceptive exposure, and Dr Otto managed to get all present to induce panic related symptoms in themselves. This illustrated the immediacy and power of interoceptive exposure techniques, as well as giving those present a better understanding of the symptomatology experienced by their clients.
It was a most comprehensive and balanced presentation, and was enlivened by Otto’s obvious enthusiasm for his subject and the knowledge imparted, was seasoned with humour.
In the concluding hour, Otto dealt briefly with the cognitive-behavioural treatment of post traumatic stress disorder. It was a great pity that there was not more time for him to cover this subject in more detail.
In the light of the trend in the United States to evidenced-based psychological treatment, it is hoped that this outstanding presentation will lead to increased instruction in cognitive-behavioural strategies in the local universities, and to an increase in the practitioners well versed in its well demonstrated efficacy.
The psychological community owes considerable thanks to the Depression and Anxiety Support Group for the substantial lobbying, fund raising and organising that went into co-ordinating this very important visit of a highly regarded therapist-researcher to our country.