The can't-miss treatment from psychology's cutting edge (Part 1 of 2)
by Lucas Myers
Many sources of emotional suffering, such as social anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or depression share common characteristics. One of the challenges of treating psychological distress is quickly diagnosing and effectively treating the patient. Stories abound of friends and family members who found a therapist or doctor with a good reputation but later found that they were misdiagnosed, incorrectly treated, or in the worst of cases, even harmed by a well intentioned but inappropriate approach to care. In an environment where even trained professionals can occasionally be wrong, what chance does the average patient have of finding solutions? No amount of library research, WebMD, or advice from friends and family is likely to yield reliable answers.
Doctors, patients, and healthcare organizations all benefit from ensuring that the most effective care is available for any given problem. In order to ensure that patients are receiving the highest quality care, many professional organizations are now recommending that psychotherapy be evidence based. In other words, the treatments being used should have research backing their efficacy. One such treatment is the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders (Barlow et. al., 2011).
The UP is a structured, skill-based treatment that works by targeting anxiety and mood disorders simultaneously. This includes all of the anxiety disorders and depression: social anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Incorporating only the latest and most effective methods of treatment, the UP represents the highest standard of evidence based practice.
Powerful and intense feelings like fear, anxiety, panic and depression can be so uncomfortable they get in the way of daily living, compelling a person to avoid activities or turn to destructive tactics (e.g., drug or alcohol abuse) in the pursuit of relief. Life can feel out of control as unwanted emotions disrupt work, relationships, important events, goals and plans. These symptoms can feel as though they increasingly draw focus away from the things that make life happy and meaningful. The UP is designed to apply to all emotional disorders, even if the symptoms aren’t easily categorized or more than one disorder is present. One of the goals of the UP is to provide the skills necessary to help clients learn to confront their emotions and respond in adaptive ways. With this increased ability to manage emotional reactions, stressful thoughts and situations lose their power and patients are able to stop avoiding and start living.
As one of the first to be trained and certified in this cutting edge therapeutic method, Dr. Michelle Lopez is becoming established as one of the foremost practitioners of the UP in the Southwestern United States:
“Obtaining certification in the UP has been a turning point in my career as a clinician. I feel privileged to help my clients master skills that go beyond coping effectively with anxiety and depression. The UP is really a set of life skills that can bring new balance and meaning to many life events.”
All of the conditions that can be treated by the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders follow a pattern. Some people are born more vulnerable to developing an emotional disorder. When these people are exposed to highly stressful, unpredictable life events they may struggle to manage their feelings . Over time overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and images can become the new “normal.” Sometimes failure to learn to cope with unpleasant feelings results in attempts to avoid, control, or suppress emotions, leading these very feelings to remain and even intensify. The UP responds to these overwhelming emotions and avoidant responses by helping the person in treatment to identify reactions to stress that are not helping and replacing them with coping skills that work.
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Remember, if you or someone you know suffers from an anxiety disorder, such as social anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or depression, professional support is available. If you are in the San Diego area and you would like to speak with Dr. Lopez, or one of our other qualified therapists, you may contact the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management at 858-354-4077 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Dr. Lopez, read her bio in the “About Us” section. To see a list of other mental health conditions that we specialize in, click here.
Barlow, D.H., Ellard, K.K., Fairholme, C.P., Farchione, T.J., Boisseau, C.L. Allen, L.B. & Ehrenreich-May, J. (2011). The unified protocol for transdiagnostic treatment of emotional disorders: Client workbook. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.