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Striving to Do More

Today, I read a story about a powerful politician who decided to use the power entrusted to him to threaten a physician for providing a safe, legal, and potentially life-saving treatment to a 10-year-old girl – a treatment that provided this girl autonomy over her body, a right that had been stolen from her. I worry that you, our members, may soon be choosing between providing life-saving gender-affirming care or your ability to practice at all, or perhaps even your freedom.

On May 25th, I answered the phone in my office to find my son’s teacher on the other end. As I realized this, my heart began pounding as I breathlessly asked “what’s wrong.” It was not the concern of a parent who thought their child was “in trouble”— that is not where my thoughts went. My thoughts went 270 miles away to the previous day when 21 people died as the result of another school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Less than a month later, the Supreme Court, in a move that was somehow both shocking and completely expected, effectively overturned many women’s right to obtain an abortion. We know women of color and women living in poverty will bear the brunt of this decision.  In the same session, the Court ruled to curb the ability of the EPA to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases and made it harder for states to protect their citizens against gun violence. The opinions that accompanied these decisions laid bare an agenda focused on degrading privacy rights in the most intimate parts of our lives. These decisions and the case law on which they are based has rightly led to anxiety, fear, and anger about the potential erosion of other rights we hold dear, from civil rights to voting rights and marriage equality. Rights which, if eroded, will have a deleterious effect on our already most marginalized populations.

You, our members, work every day to help others deal with these feelings when they get to be too much, and knowing this fills me with great pride as President of ABCT. But, I also know that beyond our work we are parents, grandparents, mother, fathers, sisters, brothers, and members of marginalized communities who are currently under attack. And, that understanding these feelings does not make us immune to them, nor do I believe we should wish to be. Just as we tell others, anxiety, fear, and anger can serve as signals that we are in danger, and that we must act.

We are not staring into the eyes of a lion, but nevertheless history suggests we are in very dangerous territory. Let us recognize our emotions and act in a way that is consistent with our values. This is what we will be doing as an organization. We will be seeking ways consistent with our values, our mission to alleviate human suffering, our science, and our organization to support our members and our communities.

Cognitive behavior therapy has much to offer the world in scary times. We must remember our theories and our interventions have implications outside the therapy room and we must strive to do more as we hold ourselves to the highest standards to practice in a way that best serves our communities. Now is the time to act and to support one another as we do so.

Laura Seligman, ABCT President

Related Information

What Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of treatment that is based firmly on research findings.  It places emphasis on changing your cognitions (thoughts) or behaviors (actions) in order to effect change in how you feel. These approaches help people in achieving specific changes or goals.

Changes or goals might involve:

A way of acting: like smoking less or being more outgoing;
A way of feeling: like helping a person to be less scared, less depressed, or less anxious;
A way of thinking: like learning to problem-solve or get rid of self-defeating thoughts;
A way of dealing with physical or medical problems: like reducing back pain or helping a person stick to a doctor’s suggestions.

Cognitive behavioral therapists usually focus more on the current situation and its solution, rather than the past. They concentrate on a person’s views and beliefs about their life. CBT is an effective treatment for individuals, parents, children, couples, and families. The goal of CBT is to help people improve and gain more control over their lives by changing behaviors that don’t work well to ones that do.

How to Get Help

If you are looking for help, either for yourself or someone else, you may be tempted to call someone who advertises in a local publication or who comes up from a search of the Internet. You may, or may not, find a competent therapist in this manner. It is wise to check on the credentials of a psychotherapist. It is expected that competent therapists hold advanced academic degrees. They should be listed as members of professional organizations, such as the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies or the American Psychological Association. Of course, they should be licensed to practice in your state. You can find competent specialists who are affiliated with local universities or mental health facilities or who are listed on the websites of professional organizations. You may, of course, visit our website ( and click on “Find a CBT Therapist”

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) is an interdisciplinary organization committed to the advancement of a scientific approach to the understanding and amelioration of problems of the human condition. These aims are achieved through the investigation and application of behavioral, cognitive, and other evidence-based principles to assessment, prevention, and treatment.