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Featured Therapist Interview
Meet Patrick McGrath, our most recent Featured Therapist
I am the Assistant Vice President of Residential Services for Alexian Brothers Behavioral Hospital and the Executive Director for Foglia Family Foundation Residential Treatment Center, part of the AMITA Health Hospital System in Chicago. I am also the Clinical Director for the Partial Hospital and Intensive Outpatient Programs for the Center for Anxiety and OCD and the School Anxiety / School Refusal programs at AMITA Health.
I have been treating anxiety disorders for almost 20 years, beginning during my postdoctoral training at the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute, under the mentorship of Alec Pollard. Our PHP and IOP treat adolescents and adults using CBT and ERP for all anxiety disorders and school anxiety/refusal. We also have programs that we can “cross track” our patients to for treating eating disorders, self-injury, mood disorders, and addictions.
In 2017 we opened the Foglia Family Foundation Residential Treatment Center, focusing on the treatment of anxiety disorders and addictions. We are one of the only residential treatment centers in the country that will treat individuals who have co-occurring disorders, and we will treat both of those simultaneously at the start of patient’s treatment.
I am also the President of Anxiety Centers of Illinois, a private practice group, and we see children, adolescents, and adults with any anxiety disorders. I have been featured on National Public Radio, Public Broadcasting System, and on Discovery Health’s show “Anxious“, as well as three episodes of “Hoarding: Buried Alive“. I have also written two books, “Don’t Try Harder, Try Different“, and, “The OCD Answer Book” a winner of the ABCT Self Help Book Merit Award.
ABCT Featured Therapist
Congratulations on being selected as an ABCT Featured Therapist.
First, we would like to know a little about your practice.
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?
I realize that this is often difficult work for those suffering from these conditions. It is important to engage the patient and get early buy-in for treatment. Keeping in mind that humor is essential I want to motivate them to do CBT and ERP. As an old Irish say goes, “Only an Irish person can tell you to go to Hell and make you actually look forward to the journey.” I know that many of my patients look at ERP like it is going to be going through an extremely difficult experience – such as hell.
I want to motivate them for that difficult journey and get ready for the rewards that await them at the other side, all while reassuring them that they can handle this.
What “tips” can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?
You can never do too much business development and networking. Advertise through ABCT and other CBT-related organizations to get your name and brand out there. Provide talks at conferences and in your local area so that others will get to know who you are and your style of treatment. Also, make sure that you specialize in something. There are too many general practitioners in big cities so embracing a specialty is important in order to stand out.
Be unapologetic about being a CBT therapist. Take the cases you are comfortable with or can get supervision on, and know your limits. Though it will be tempting to take on as many patients as you can, it is better to refer a potential patient to someone who specializes in their needs instead of taking them on yourself, doing a bad job, and getting a reputation for not doing well as a therapist. There are way too many chances these days to get a bad review, which are reflected in social media sites.
How do you remind your patients of their strengths during the therapy process?
I show them that they have more abilities than the give themselves credit through the ERP process. We do it together, and I get to share in their satisfaction that they experience when they realize that they have the strength inside of themselves to do the things that they fear most. When they doubt themselves, I remind them that they have already done the thing that they fear and that they need to build on what they actually “know” from ERP instead of what their anxiety tells them to believe.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
President of Anxiety Centers of Illinois, a private practice group in the Chicago area.
Vice President of Residential Services for AMITA Health, the largest health system in Illinois
Executive Director of the Foglia Family Foundation Residential Treatment Center
Clinical Director of the Center for Anxiety and OCD and the School Anxiety / School Refusal Programs at AMITA Health, Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital.
President of OCD Midwest, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation.
Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of IOCDF.
Also, a trainer of the Behavior Therapy Training Institute.
I also present yearly at their conference, and I present yearly at ABCT and ADAA’s conferences.
I do an average of 30 presentations a year to schools, community groups, and through the AMITA Health Speakers Bureau in the Chicago area. I have been a trainer for CBT, ERP, and Anxiety Disorders in Australia, Turkey, and Italy. I have also done these trainings in the USA for PESI in the past. I have written two books, one that has received a Self Help Award of Merit from ABCT. I have also worked with numerous researchers across the country that have used data from my clinics for theses, dissertations, and peer reviewed articles.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
Who was your mentor?
Alec Pollard at the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute. I was his postdoc for two years. Alec has been one of the most influential people in my life, and I owe all that I do professionally to the training I got through Alec and the staff at SLBMI. He remains a trusted mentor and a great friend.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
I have a cottage in Michigan that I like to go to on the weekends. It is a great place to write, relax, and get out on my kayak and just have some quiet time to myself. Also, I have picked up photography as a side hobby on my travels, and hope to soon start to sell some of my work.
However, the past year has not been very fun. My wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer. So, my “fun” for the last year has been learning about cancer, cancer treatment, and sleeping on many uncomfortable cots in many a different hospital room. But the support from my colleagues at ABCT has been wonderful and I very much appreciate their checking in on me and my wife to see how her treatment is progressing.
When a loved one is given a terminal diagnosis you get a chance to really see CBT in action, because you have to start to use it on yourself. I know that CBT worksas I remind myself daily to not give in to cognitive distortions, to make a plan and put it into action, and to try to make the best out of the time I have left with her instead of focusing on the negative thoughts that love to randomly pop into my head.
We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your clients?
I believe that it gives hope to people. When I describe the rationale for CBT and ERP to people who have been suffering from anxiety for years the look of relief on their face when they realize someone finally understands is rewarding. The issues they are going through and the solutions I can offer provide for me a sense of professional satisfaction. I know I can help them, and they start to feel that they can be helped.
Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
I think that there will be a continued move toward technology. I foresee continued growth of Virtual Reality-based treatments as well as the growth of phone apps and telehealth platforms. I am excited to already be a part of some of these experiences.
How do you use the local or social media to educate your community on the benefits of CBT?
I am on the speaker’s bureau for my hospital as well as for ABCT. I am always willing to speak to the media or the public about the benefits of CBT and ERP. As the President of OCD Midwest, I also use our social media pages to talk about awareness events for OCD, OCD treatment, and CBT/ERP. I was also featured on The Learning Channel’s (TLC) Hoarding: Buried Alive and Discovery Health’s documentary “Anxious.”
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
This will be my 19th or 20th year as an ABCT member. I became a Fellow in 2017.
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
The conferences are always a great source of information, from both the talks and the ability to get together with colleagues yearly to both formally and informally talk about advances in the field, as well as get consultations on patients. Giving talks at ABCT has also been a great experience, as it helps me to improve my speaking and training abilities.
What services do you consider the most valuable from ABCT?
The Find a Therapist portion of the website has helped my practice, from the PHP/IOP that I run for anxiety disorders and for school anxiety/school refusal, as well as the Foglia Residential Treatment Center for both anxiety and addictions.
What service(s) are missing from ABCT in your role as a practitioner?
I continue to try to do talks to bring a more clinical side to ABCT. My continuing goal for ABCT is to help integrate all of the great research that is presented to actual practice. I hope to continue to work in this area with ABCT and help to make ABCT even more popular in the field. I will continue to put in presentations that focus on taking what you learn about CBT and ERP in the classroom to how you can really use CBT and ERP with a patient.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!