Explore This Research Lab

About the Program

The psychiatrists and psychologists in the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders (CATSD) and Complicated Grief Program at Massachusetts General Hospital explore the causes and treatments for a variety of anxiety-related disorders. The team provides outpatient evaluation and treatment for adults 18 years and older with persistent worry or anxiety, traumatic stress and/or prolonged grief.

The research studies conducted by the CATSD provide the opportunity for staff and patients to work together on identifying and developing new treatment methods for these anxiety-related disorders.

Our Approach to Therapy

We offer individual cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for our patients, which aims to alleviate emotional pain by adjusting unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and behavioral patterns of avoidance. Our treatments include:
  • CBT for generalized anxiety disorder
  • CBT for panic disorder
  • CBT for social anxiety disorder
  • CBT for specific phobia
  • CBT for illness anxiety disorder
  • Prolonged exposure for posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Cognitive processing therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Complicated grief treatment
  • Unified protocol for transdiagnostic treatment of emotional disorders

All therapies last around 12-16 weeks and are evidence-based, meaning that research indicates these treatments are effective at reducing symptoms.

We offer treatment both in-person at Mass General as well as remotely through a secure Zoom platform. You may opt to receive treatment within either modality. Please note that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, treatment is solely offered through the Zoom platform.

Our Approach to Pharmacotherapy

Our psychiatrists will work with you to create a personalized pharmacotherapy, or medication, treatment plan. Medications can be an effective alternative or addition to traditional psychotherapy. Some common medications for anxiety include:
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
Medication can also be helpful in the treatment of traumatic stress, anxiety, prolonged grief and more.

Conditions We Treat

Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural response to stressful life events. Most individuals will experience worry, nerves and apprehension during their lifetime. In fact, some degree of anxiety can be helpful, such as motivating you to prepare for a big exam or presentation. However, at a certain point it negatively interferes with daily functioning and physical health.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety looks different for everyone. You may get easily overwhelmed, feel on edge and avoid places, people or things. You may experience:
  • Constant and uncontrollable worry about any aspect of your life including career, health, family and social life
  • Panic attacks or sudden peaks of anxiety that cause intense physical sensations like heart palpitations and trouble breathing
  • Struggles in social situations or when you feel like attention is focused on you
  • Specific anxiety, like constantly worrying about your health or an extreme fear about a specific situation or object
There are also common physical symptoms associated with anxiety including:
  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling irritable

How do I treat anxiety?

Research indicates that CBT is an effective treatment for a range of anxiety disorders. Based on the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviors constantly interact and influence us, CBT aims to alleviate anxiety by adjusting unhelpful thought patterns, beliefs and behavioral patterns of avoidance. CBT is an overarching type of therapy with many different types or “flavors” to help with different symptoms and needs. For example, individuals experiencing panic attacks might go through exposures to get used to certain physiological sensations. This helps patients relearn beliefs about what those sensations mean.

Sleep, exercise, mindfulness and nutrition are also helpful in managing anxiety and everyday stressors.

Finally, research indicates that medication management is an effective way of treating anxiety.

More specific details on the various types of treatment we offer can be found on our clinic page.

Can I get involved in an anxiety research study at CATSD?

Yes. You can learn more information here.

Resources for Anxiety
  • The Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University (BU CARD): Specializes in anxiety disorders and related challenges, such as difficulties with mood, sleep, concentration and pain.
    • Phone number: 617-353-9610
  • LifeStance Health: A unique, multi-specialty psychological counseling and behavioral health center that offers a range of specialty services, including: psychotherapy and counseling, behavioral medicine and health promotion, ADHD diagnosis and treatment, neuropsychological testing and evaluation, psychological testing, educational and learning disability evaluations, and medication consultation and management.
    • Phone number: 617-259-1895
  • Azimuth Therapy: Mental health challenges of those in high pressure careers, offering individual therapy, support groups with others in high-pressure careers, neurofeedback for optimized mental performance and testing for diagnosis and accommodations.
    • Phone number: 617-431-3749
  • Life Changes Group: Comprehensive counseling, psychopharmacology, and consulting, specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and mood disorders with direct, guided and collaborative cognitive behavioral therapy support.
    • Phone number: 617-354-4450
  • Thriveworks Therapy: Individual therapy, relationship counseling and career coaching.
    • Phone number: 617-395-5806; 617-553-465
  • Mass General Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine: The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital is a world leader in the study, advancement and clinical practice of mind/body medicine.
    • Phone number: 617-643-6090
  • Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at Cambridge Health Alliance
    • Phone number: 617-591-6132
  • Cambridge Insight Meditation Center
    • Phone number: 617-441-9038
  • Insight Meditation Society
    • Phone number: 978-355-4378; 978-355-2063
Trauma

What is trauma?

Experiencing and coping with stressful life events is a normal part of life. Sometimes, you might experience a particularly upsetting or horrifying event in which you are directly or indirectly exposed to death or violence. These types of stressful events are called traumatic events. Some examples include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Community violence
  • Serious car accidents
  • Serious injury
  • Life-threatening illness

What are the symptoms of trauma?

Your body may react in a number of ways to a traumatic event, such as:
  • A depressed mood
  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • Difficulty in controlling anxious thoughts
  • A cluster of symptoms in reaction to this traumatic event or PTSD

What is PTSD?

An individual with PTSD will experience a range of emotional, physiological and behavioral symptoms in response to a traumatic event for at least one month. You may experience:
  • Intrusive symptoms in which you feel that you are re-living the event long after the traumatic experience occurred. For example, recurring flashbacks or nightmares of the event, or unwanted memories of the event that feel impossible to escape
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, places or activities that remind you of the trauma
  • Changes in thoughts and mood such as gaps in memory about the traumatic event, persistent negative views of yourself or the world, or intense feelings of guilt or shame surrounding the event
  • Physiological and reactive symptoms such as jumpiness, sleep disturbances, hypervigilance and irritability

If you experience one or more symptoms above, you may have symptoms that resemble PTSD.

How do I treat PTSD?

There are a variety of ways to get treatment for PTSD. If you are interested in seeking therapy for your PTSD, research indicates that CBT is an effective treatment. Prolonged Exposure (PE) and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) are considered the two “gold-standard” evidence-based treatments for PTSD as based on principles of CBT.

PE for PTSD is designed to help you confront the upsetting memories and situations associated with the traumatic event. By approaching your trauma triggers, as opposed to avoiding them, you may be able to reduce the impairing emotional and physiological symptoms associated with your PTSD.

CPT for PTSD targets unhelpful thought patterns surrounding the trauma by focusing on restructuring the thoughts and beliefs surrounding the event. By challenging these beliefs, you may be able to regain a sense of trust, control and positive mood in your life.

Finally, research also indicates that medication management is an effective way of treating PTSD.

Can I get involved in a PTSD research study at CATSD?

Currently we do not have any active PTSD research studies. Please continually check our page for updates on new studies.

Resources for Trauma and PTSD
  • Home Base Program for Veterans and Their Families: Provides clinical care to veterans and support for their families as well as educational courses and materials for health care providers and the public. Also bringing together world-class researchers seeking medical breakthroughs in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury and stress-related disorders.
    • Phone number: 617-724-5202
  • Hospitals Helping Abuse and Violence End Now for Intimate Partner Violence: Support groups, ongoing counseling, advocacy, accompaniment to court or other appointments, safety planning and a hotline.
    • Boston: 617-724-0054
    • Chelsea: 617-887-3513
    • Revere: 781-485-6108
  • Victims of Violence: An adult outpatient trauma clinic located in a multi-site urban public health system that serves a diverse client population.
    • Phone number: 617-591-6360
Grief

What is grief?

Grieving is a normal and expected process that follows the loss of a loved one. It is painful, and may lead to symptoms such as yearning, avoidance and isolation. For most individuals, these symptoms decrease over time, but for some they can last months or years after the loss and negatively impact day-to-day functioning. This experience is known as prolonged grief (PG) and affects about 12-15% of bereaved adults.

What are the symptoms of grief?

You may have PG if you experience symptoms like:

  • An inability to accept the death of your loved one or feeling numbness about the loss
  • Intrusive thoughts about your deceased loved one
  • Strong pangs of emotion related to your deceased loved one
  • Powerful yearnings or wishes that your loved one was still alive
  • Intense feelings of loneliness
  • Avoidance of people, places, or activities that remind you of your deceased loved one
  • Loss of interest in work, social or personal activities

How do I treat PG?

Complicated Grief Treatment (CGT) is a short-term, evidence-based treatment for PG. It was developed at the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University, and consists of 16 sessions, done weekly. CGT for PG will help you move through the experience of persistent grief to progress the natural bereavement process and integrate the loss into your daily life. With the guidance of a CATSD clinician, you will address a different theme each week. These include, but are not limited to, understanding your grief, accepting painful emotions and remembering the person who died. This process incorporates imaginal and situational revisiting and maintaining a grief monitoring diary. Over time, you will learn accept the loss, rebuild interpersonal connections and begin to plan for the future.

CGT for PG is delivered in time-limited individual therapy at CATSD. This treatment is designed to be delivered in 16 sessions.

Can I get involved in a grief research study at CATSD?

Yes, we are currently running one study on PG. You can learn more information here.

Resources for Grief

Our Team

Our psychiatrists and psychologists draw on years of experience and are focused on treating and conducting extensive research.

Meet Our Team

Leadership

Jerry Rosenbaum, MD
Amanda Baker, PhD
Dr. Baker is a research and clinical psychologist and clinical director at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry at Mass General and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School where she has worked since 2013. Dr. Baker received her PhD from Boston University and completed her pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral training at Mass General/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Baker's clinical and research interests focus on understanding mechanisms and personalization of empirically-based psychosocial treatments for anxiety and related disorders. She has a current NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Foundation examining the use of ecological momentary assessment and wearable psychophysiological assessment to develop intra-individual networks of panic disorder and assess change in cognitive behavioral therapy. Dr. Baker is an active member of several professional societies including the Anxiety and Depression Association of America where she is chair of the Early Career Special Interest Group.
Donald Robinaugh, PhD

Dr. Robinaugh is an assistant professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and the director of research at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders. He obtained his PhD at Harvard University in 2015, where he studied clinical psychology under the mentorship of Dr. Richard McNally, before completing post-doctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital and at the University of Amsterdam. His research is centered on better understanding the etiology of anxiety and traumatic stress disorders, with particular focus on how these disorders may operate as causal systems.

Jonah Cohen, PhD

Dr. Cohen is a clinical psychologist and the director of Clinical Training & Innovation at CATSD and is an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Cohen completed his PhD from Temple University, his internship at Columbia University Medical Center and his fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Dr. Cohen specializes in integrative practice for complex presentations for which he has won numerous national clinical awards. He also practices clinically in several other clinical services in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Cohen heads a robust clinical training program and is responsible for bringing innovative clinical and research programs to CATSD.

Clinic and Research Team

Ben Bellet, MS

Ben is a student clinician at CATSD. He grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned a BS in kinesiology at the United States Military Academy. Following graduation, Ben served for five years as a U.S. Army infantry officer, deploying to both Afghanistan and Kuwait. After leaving active duty, Ben earned his MS in general psychology at the University of Memphis. Ben is now a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at Harvard University. His research focuses on how humans make meaning of suffering, trauma and loss.

Rachel Zack Ishikawa, PhD

Dr. Ishikawa is a clinical psychologist in the Mass General Department of Psychiatry and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She provides clinical treatment to adults through CATSD and the Geriatric Psychiatry Clinical and Research Program, and is a clinical supervisor for pre- and post-doctoral psychology fellows. She has written peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on the subjects of mental health treatment disparities, cultural adaptations of evidence-based treatments and the application of evidence-based treatments to older adults. Dr. Ishikawa received her MPH in international health from Emory University and her PhD in clinical psychology from Clark University. She completed post-doctoral training at the Victims of Violence program at the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School.

Nicole LeBlanc, PhD

Dr. LeBlanc is a clinical and research fellow at CATSD. She completed her PhD in clinical psychology at Harvard University and her clinical internship in the cognitive behavioral track at Mass General/Harvard Medical School in 2019. Dr. LeBlanc is interested in studying the ways that social factors like loss and loneliness contribute to the development and maintenance of mental disorders. She is also interested in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy. Dr. LeBlanc’s clinical interests include CBT for anxiety disorders, traumatic stress disorders and emerging adults.

T.H. Eric Bui, MD, PhD

Dr. Bui is professor of Psychiatry at the University of Caen Normandy in France and adjunct investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital where he served in different leadership capacities as a Harvard Medical School faculty, for nearly 10 years. His research focuses specifically on understanding the mechanisms and improving the treatment of anxiety and stress-related conditions, including PTSD and complicated grief. To date, he has published over 150 scientific articles and book chapters and edited two textbooks in the field. He currently serves as the president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, as associate editor of the European Journal of Psychotraumatology and as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Mental Health.

  • Amantia Ametaj, PhD
  • Lateisha Cartwright
  • Daniel Coppersmith, MA
  • Sharmin Ghaznavi, MD, PhD
  • Elizabeth Goetter, PhD
  • Monique Jarro
  • Franklin King, MD
  • Kristina Korte, PhD
  • Alexandria Miller, MS
  • Bridget Pelkie
  • Jasmin Ramirez
  • Mercedes Szpunar, MD, PhD
  • Nur Hani Zainal, MS

Clinical Research Coordinators

Alexa Skolnik, BA

Alexa graduated with honors from the University of Miami in 2020 where she received a BA in psychology and gender and sexuality studies. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant in the Program for Anxiety, Stress, & OCD under the supervision of Dr. Kiara Timpano. When she was a senior, Alexa completed a thesis that examined the relationship between traumatic events and hoarding disorder, focusing on both diagnostic status and symptom severity. After her time at CATSD, Alexa intends to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Katherine Kabel

Katherine graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston in 2021 where she earned a BS in psychology. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant for Dr. Michael Zvolensky in the Anxiety and Health Research Lab-Substance Use Treatment Clinic as well as for Dr. Anka Vujanovic in the Trauma and Stress Studies Center. She completed her senior honors thesis on the role of anxiety sensitivity in mental health outcomes among trauma-exposed college students during COVID-19 under the supervision of Dr. Zvolensky. Her research interests include anxiety and traumatic stress disorders and transdiagnostic mechanisms such as anxiety sensitivity and distress tolerance that underlie psychopathology, particularly among underserved populations. Katherine plans to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology after her time at CATSD.

Claire Hotchkin

Claire graduated cum laude from Harvard College in 2021 where she studied neuroscience and psychology. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant for Dr. Richard McNally and captained the Harvard Track & Field Team. For her honors thesis, Claire studied the effect of exercise on anxiety using wearable technology. Her research interests include the use of psychedelics and deep brain stimulation to help those suffering from treatment-resistant forms of mental illness. Claire's post-CATSD plans include pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Recent Previous Research Coordinators

  • Daniella Levine
  • Ilana Ander
  • Emma Toner
  • Olivia Losiewicz
  • Meredith Ward
  • Mackenzie Brown
  • Allyson Blackburn


Training Opportunities

Advanced Clinical Psychology Practicum

The Advanced Clinical Psychology Practicum is a one-year program designed to provide extensive clinical training in clinical psychology. The goals of the program are to develop competencies in:

  1. Identifying and assessing anxiety disorders, PTSD and complicated grief
  2. Evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders, PTSD and complicated grief

These goals are accomplished through direct supervised experience with diverse clinical research populations as well as the opportunity to work with multidisciplinary teams within the clinic.

The core of the experience takes place in the CATSD where trainees gain experience with a variety of clinically distressed patient populations including those with panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD and complicated grief. This experience will include gold standard assessment and evidence-based treatment delivery, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, of these disorders. They also have the opportunity to attend and participate in departmental rounds in psychiatry. Students may also have the opportunity to get involved with ongoing research at CATSD.

Qualifications

Eligible students are:
  • Doctoral students who have a background in clinical psychology through their course work and training
  • Those who have completed at least one year of supervised training in clinical psychology

Expectations & Supervision

The Advanced Practicum is a 16-20-hour commitment with 12-16 hours of contact with clinical research patients and two-four hours of meetings. Students work closely with CATSD faculty and will receive 2 hours of supervision by a licensed clinical psychologist. In addition, trainees will be evaluated twice per training year with a formalized assessment measuring the core competencies of this practicum. These assessments will be provided to the trainee’s doctoral program if requested.

Current CATSD supervisors include:

  • Amanda Baker, PhD
  • Elizabeth Goetter, PhD
  • Jonah Cohen, PhD
  • Rachel Ishikawa, PhD

Incoming Practicum Students:

  • Alexandria Miller
  • Daniel Coppersmith
For additional information please contact Jonah Cohen, PhD, at jonah.cohen@mgh.harvard.edu.

Studies Open for Enrollment

Please contact anxietystudy@mgh.harvard.edu with any additional questions.

Network Psychiatry: Using Network Science to Advance Our Understanding of Post-Bereavement Psychopathology

Study Contact: Alexa Skolnik, (617) 643-3070, amskolnik@mgh.harvard.edu

The CATSD at Mass General is seeking adult participants who experienced the death of a loved one more than 6 months ago for a study of bereavement. We are conducting a study with the aim of learning more about how people adjust to the death of a loved one. Specifically, we hope to investigate the psychological and biological mechanisms that lead grief to persist for some bereaved adults but not others. The study will last approximately two-and-a-half weeks and will require two in-person visits to our clinic. Additionally, you will be asked to complete daily surveys on your phone. All collected information will remain strictly confidential.

Clinical Feasibility of Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Pulsation (LIFUP) for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Study Contact: Claire Hotchkin, (617) 724-2684, chotchkin@mgh.harvard.edu

Do you have anxiety? Have you tried medications, but they didn’t work for you? If you have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and have tried at least two medications, you may be eligible to participate in a research study. This study is investigating a safe, non-invasive brain stimulation device called LIFUP. This research is monitored for ethics and safety by the Institutional Review Board of Massachusetts General Hospital. Subjects will be assigned by chance to receive either brain stimulation treatment or placebo. Participants will be asked to attend seven visits with our clinical research staff to receive brain stimulation, undergo MRI scans, and complete questionnaires and a computer task. Your information will remain private. You will receive compensation for your time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Participation

How will my privacy be protected if I enroll in a research study at your clinic?

We are committed to protecting your privacy. All study data will be labeled with a unique study ID code, rather than any information that could be used to identify you such as your name or date of birth. Signed consent forms and any correspondence containing your name or other identifying information is stored in a locked cabinet. At your first appointment with us, you will receive the Mass General Brigham Notice for Use and Sharing of Protected Health Information, which gives more details about how your privacy is protected. The consent form for the study you participate in will also contain this information.

Will my participation in a research study go on my medical record?

No. However, if you choose to enroll in a study, information from your medical records within Mass General Brigham that is reasonably related to the conduct and oversight of the study may be accessed during the course of the study. If health information is needed from your doctors or hospitals outside Mass General Brigham, you will be asked to give permission for your medical records to be sent to us.

Will my insurance company be notified of my participation in a research study?

No.

Is there any cost to me for participating in a research study?

No, there is no cost to you or your health insurance company for you taking part in a study. Parking is available at no cost.

Is there compensation for participating in a research study?

Evaluation and study treatments are provided at no cost. Some studies (but not all) also provide a small compensation for your time.

I am pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the near future. Can I participate in a study?

We ask that women who enroll in our studies do not become pregnant or breastfeed throughout the course of the study.

Can I be seen through your clinic as a private patient?

Our clinic primarily provides treatment through research studies. If you are interested in being seen outside of research, please call the Psychiatric Triage line at 617-724-7792.

Please note: Generally, you must have a primary care physician at Mass General to be seen in the outpatient (non-research) clinics in the Psychiatry Department. If you do not have a primary care physician at Mass General, please see our list of referrals.

Can children or adolescents be seen at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders?

We only treat patients who are 18 or older. If you are under 18 or looking for treatment for your child, please call Pediatric Psychopharmacology at 617-934-4644.

Referrals and Resources

For information about treatment options at Mass General, please contact the Mass General Psychiatry new patient line at 617-724-7792.

If you are interested in treatment outside of Mass General Brigham, you can utilize online search tools from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or the Center for Complicated Grief.

Additional Online Resources