Barlow’s etiological model is presented in the second group therapy session. This model explains the causes of phobias, anxiety, OCD… According to this model, there may be a biological hereditary vulnerability, that is, a sensitivity to anxiety that is passed on by the parents. This sensitivity has advantages, it allows us to be sensitive to the environment and the people around us. This can be an advantage in human care (nurses, care assistants, psychologists), with animals (veterinarians) but also in the arts. Artists are often anxious people but also sensitive to the environment and this sensitivity is very useful in the creative world.



  • The first possible cause is direct trauma. It occurs when the patient undergoes a specific traumatic event at a moment T of his life (a serious fall, an illness..)
  • The second possible cause is indirect trauma. It occurs when the patient has not been the victim of a trauma, an accident, but has witnessed and been affected by the event. For example, he or she has seen someone having a panic attack or being trapped in an elevator, he or she has seen people panicking on an airplane.
  • The third possible cause is stress. It is different from the other two, because it is not an event at a moment T. It acts as a diffuse pressure that has been going on for months or even years. It can be caused by a work-related pressure, a marital conflict and then a separation, a chronic illness. It is a stressful and exhausting event that has lasted for months or years.
  • The fourth possible cause is false information. This is when patients were given false information when they were children. For example: don’t come home too late or you will be raped, or don’t swim too far away, you will drown. These phrases will make the child believe that the environment is hostile, and in some children this causes phobias and OCD. These are phrases to avoid when talking to children.  You must be benevolent and protective. You should use phrases like: swim close to the shore so I can see you.



Patients usually fall into one of these four causes. The origin of the cause leads the patient to a constant vigilance which with time will be learned and will remain anchored. The patient will then develop an anxious apprehension that will make him anticipate these situations in advance. This eventually leads to phobia and OCD. Sometimes some patients do not remember exactly what the cause is. It is then necessary to reassure the patients, the therapy helps to discover the origin of the problem.  This model is very interesting to understand the etiologies and therefore the causes of phobias, anxieties, OCD of patients.

Discover Gray’s neurobiological model, and Beck’s cognitive model

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