Below are some common questions our clients and people considering therapy ask. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact Dr. Hsia directly.

What is The OC Anxiety Center?

The OC Anxiety Center was born out of the desire of Dr. Hsia to continue research he had initiated at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. In conjunction with a few colleagues, he has continued to develop research protocols that focus on the treatment of anxiety disorders, with a focus on cultural and religious adaptations to proven therapeutic approaches. His curriculum vitae and selected articles are available. OC Anxiety Center’s goal is to help individuals with anxiety disorders through direct clinical services and research in both the Southern Orange County and Northern San Diego areas. In addition to research, Dr. Hsia enjoys clinical work as well and accepts a limited number of clients.

Do I really need to see a psychologist?

There is no one blanket answer for this – perhaps it is best understood by asking yourself two questions:

  1. How interfering is this problem in my day to day life?
  2. How distressing is it that I have this problem?

For example, some people will say that they do not need help with their fear of heights as their lives are stable, but have turned down job promotions which are on a higher floor in the building, or made changes to vacation plans. However, others may have the same fear but live on a farm in Texas and never encounter this as a problem. Similarly, some may not concerned at all that they have a fear of birds, but others may find this very distressing and embarrassing.

What is it like to see a psychologist?

This depends on the theoretical background of the psychologist you see, and the personality of the psychologist. At the OC Anxiety Center, our focus is threefold:

  1. A thorough assessment. This means understanding what issue (or often, issues) exist, and how it functions. A good analogy would be if you were sick, you would want your medical doctor to do more than just ask you to describe the symptoms, but also run blood tests, MRIs, and other pertinent tests. We believe that without understanding what the issue is, we cannot formulate a treatment plan.
  2. A reasonable treatment plan. Once we understand what the issue is, we can then design a treatment plan with the client. The focus is to change how a client thinks about a situation (“it’s just too difficult” to “it isn’t easy, but I can do it”), and how a client acts in a situation (rather than leaving the situation, stay in the situation and deal with the anxiety) through small, progressive steps. These are done both in session (typically once or twice a week, for one to two hours) and as homework during the week. While the length of the overall treatment varies (as short as three days in the Intensive Treatment option and as long as several years in very complicated, severe cases), the focus is that treatment is not a way of life, but an intervention that should take as little time as possible. Many treatments can be completed in thirty sessions or less. Treatment is very active, with the goal of the client learning new skills that can be use the psychologist being present.
  3. Continued maintenance after completion of active treatment. Much like a weight loss program, after a person has lost their desired amount of weight, he or she cannot return to the previous nutrition and exercise patterns. Similarly, a person who has completed active treatment will need to continue to use the skills learned in active treatment and use them throughout his or her life.

Why should I choose the OC Anxiety Center for my treatment?

The OC Anxiety Center’s goal is to help people through both therapy and research. The therapy is based on current research to ensure the best outcome possible, and focuses on making sure that the client receives the best services possible. To this end, after a thorough assessment and diagnosis a client will be advised of the best course of treatment, which may include a referral to another specialist. Our goal is to provide the highest quality care to a person, even if it means referring that individual to another provider.

Currently, Dr. Hsia is accepting patients within the Southern California area, or those willing to travel to the area. He has a focus on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia (PDA), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Social Phobia, and Specific Phobias. He also sees individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and assists individuals who are trying to increase functional skills, such as those with Asperger’s and Dependent Personality Disorder. Dr. Hsia has seen patients as young as four and as old as 75 years old, and also conducts group therapy. His research interest focuses on how to adapt current therapies that are known to work well to each individual, based on important factors, such as religion, gender and culture.

Who is Dr. Curtis Hsia?

Curtis Hsia, Ph.D, completed with undergraduate degree at UCLA in psychology, where he first became interested in the field through teaching children with autism using Applied Behavioral Analysis techniques. He then earned his doctorate in both school and clinical psychology in 2000, with his research and clinical interest in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and multi-cultural issues in clinical psychology using cognitive behavioral therapy. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, specializing in the intensive treatment of both Panic Disorder and Specific Phobias (an intensive treatment is typically completed in a week or less), utilizing exposure and response prevention (ERP) and cognitive challenging as the bases. Since then, he has been a professor at Azusa Pacific University for nine years, and has founded the Anxiety Research Center (ARC), now called the OC Anxiety Center (OCAC). Dr. Hsia has led several research teams that have published in major scientific journals and presented at numerous conferences across the globe. He also travels to China every few years to give workshops at a number of universities and hospitals in Beijing and Shanghai. His focus on multicultural psychology has led him to learn how to adapt preexisting effective therapies to people of different religions and cultures. He can be reached at He may also be reached at 949-689-5892.

I’ve been told by different professionals that I have different diagnoses. What do I do?

This unfortunate situation does occur, and can have a number of causes. Over time, sometimes diagnoses do wax and wane, and depending on when you went to see a professional, you may get a different result. Additionally, many diagnoses look very similar to one another, and require significant experience and expertise to differentiate between two different disorders. This is why it is essential to find an expert in the area of your concern.

Why is research so important in the treatment of my issue?

Therapy should be based upon proven technology that has worked in the past in many instances. To examine the success rate of therapies, research is conducted to verify the efficacy of different theoretical models as applied to specific disorders. In short, research allows a clinician (and any layperson who wants to read scientific journals) to see if the type of therapy conducted fits with the problem at hand. Unfortunately many do not stay abreast of research and continue using the same methodologies learned years ago. While this may be useful in some situations, psychology treatments continue to evolve much like medical ones and knowing what is most current often leads to the best outcome for the patient.

Why are there so many different types of psychologists?

Psychology is a very broad field, with many subspecialties. There are psychologists that work in business, sports, schools, and research settings. Even within clinical psychology there are many different approaches to problems. Each theoretical approach is based on a different belief in understanding human behavior. While a complete answer would be too complex for a brief FAQ, what you should consider is what your problem is, and what the research indicates is the best approach for the problem. Think about it this way: if you have to lose 15 lbs of weight, you will research different nutrition and exercise plans, and not just randomly choose one.

What’s the difference between an MD, PhD, PsyD, MA, and MSW? Don’t they all do the same thing?

No. Each degree represents a different level of training and expertise. Each has is strengths and weaknesses, and you need to choose one that is best for you. A medical doctor, typically a psychiatrist or general practitioner, has gone to medical school and can prescribe medication. Often an MD will focus on treatment through medication, as he or she generally follows the idea that your body is out of chemical balance, and just needs to have that imbalance addressed. There are some situations where this is what is needed (e.g., post-partum depression), but other times it is useful to also see a psychologist to address the reasons why the chemical imbalance occurred in the first place (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD). A person with a PhD has gone to school for approximately five years, plus one year of internship. This person has typically also earned a MA along the way, and has the ability to conduct research, implement research he or she has read in scientific journals, and conduct therapy. Typically a person with a PhD tends to be specialized in one area (for example, my specialty is in anxiety disorders. I can treat mood disorders, and have seen people with personality and thought disorders, but generally refer them out to my colleagues who specialize in those areas). A person with a PsyD typically can implement research he or she has read in a scientific journal and do therapy, but is not as strong in conducting original research. A person with an MA in psychology has two years of graduate training and one year internship, and can do therapy, but typically is not as strong in implementing or conducting research. A person with an MSW is similar to a person with an MA in psychology, but with some notable exceptions. Individuals with an MA or MSW tend to be generalists and focus on counseling issues, not clinical ones. There are obviously many exceptions to this rule (I have met a PsyD who is a great researcher), and you need to evaluate each professional you meet to see if he or she can help you with your specific problem. Also remember that the term “therapist” is an unprotected term, which means that no license of any sort is required to call oneself a therapist. Be sure to vet your psychologist by asking for his or her license number and checking with the appropriate governing body (in California the web address is