Saratoga: Therapy center focuses on anxiety, OCD issues

A new treatment center in Saratoga helps local adults, children and teens dealing with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder receive counseling and therapy services.

Laura Johnson opened the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley in March to treat anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders using a scientifically based approach.

The facility is the only place in the South Bay focusing exclusively on anxiety and OCD and offering evidence-based treatments, according to Johnson.

“It’s a very practical, goal-oriented type of therapy that focuses on things people want to change,” Johnson said. “We do a lot of progress monitoring to make sure the therapy is appropriately tailored to the client.”

Therapists work with patients that have OCD and OCD spectrum disorders such as trichotillomania (hair pulling), chronic skin picking, hypochondriasis or health anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder and tic disorders or Tourette syndrome.

“We work with helping build awareness around these habits and behaviors and help them learn new compatible ways to respond,” said Johnson. “We kind of retrain them.”

Teenagers often come in for social anxiety, but the disorder affects people of all ages, said Johnson. To help those patients, therapists will work on helping patients get over their fear of judgment.

Selective mutism is among the more common conditions that afflict younger children, especially girls, Johnson said. A child with selective mutism may be completely silent at school but outgoing and speaks freely at home.

“That’s a really hard one to work with,” Johnson said, adding that in this scenario, therapists will work with parents on gradually exposing their children to different scenarios to get them comfortable with speaking in public.

Panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia and other phobias, anxiety-related insomnia and depression are other conditions that therapists focus on. Each is handled in a different way, and treatment can stretch beyond sessions with a therapist. In that way, therapists tend to be more like teachers and coaches, Johnson said.

“We really train our clients on techniques they can implement at home, outside the session,” Johnson said. “There’s always homework to do.”

Johnson, who resides in Los Gatos, founded the center four years ago in San Jose, but realized she had to move to a bigger location when her business grew and she no longer could take on clients on her own. She hired three more therapists over the years, and this year relocated the practice to Saratoga because it is central to where her clients live and is near the freeway.

“The area is beautiful, and there’s a need for what we do in the South Bay,” she said.

A big believer in continuing education, Johnson said she provides a budget for her therapists to receive continuing education. They also meet weekly to review cases.

“We have a really strong passion for what we do,” she said. “I originally got involved with CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) on my own because it helped me with my struggles back in the 1990s, and when I became a therapist I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

The cost of each session varies by therapist, but ranges from $150 to $210. Most treatments require anywhere from 12 to 20 sessions over a period of three to six months. However, Johnson acknowledged that it really depends on the individual.

“Some people get results quickly, some have to come longer,” she said.

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center is at 12961 Village Drive, Suite C, Saratoga.