Anxiety and depression can be uncomfortable and unsettling to experience. The good news is that treatment for emotional disorders can reduce the thoughts and behaviours contributing to and maintaining your distress and increase your ability to cope with and tolerate distressing emotions.
Emotional disorders include anxiety and mood disorders (i.e. depression) that have one prominent feature in common: difficulties with emotional regulation skills.
Individuals who experience emotional disorders use specific strategies to deal with their symptoms that typically involve avoiding uncomfortable emotions as much as possible. Yet, avoidance maintains these uncomfortable symptoms longer and often exacerbates them.
One evidence-based treatment for emotional disorders is the Unified Protocol (UP). UP is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-type treatment that teaches you to understand your emotional experiences better, helps you to understand how the way you behave or think may unintentionally contribute to your symptoms, and offers you skills to help you to manage these symptoms when they arise.
The Unified Protocol (UP) will help you learn to confront and experience uncomfortable emotions to manage them in more adaptive ways. UP has multiple treatment components, including emotional awareness, cognitive flexibility, and behaviour change.
A core component of UP is to increase your emotional awareness to gain a more objective view of your emotions versus getting caught up in them. This is accomplished by engaging in nonjudgmental present-focused awareness practice. Such a stance involves staying in the present moment – the here and now- aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the moment. Practicing present-focused awareness decreases your worrying about the future or focusing on the past, allowing you to experience the emotion as it is, in the moment.
By allowing yourself to experience an emotion non-judgmentally, you may find that the emotion is not as overwhelming as you expected and that you can handle it better than you think. You may also find that your emotions can be a valuable source of information to help guide you in valued directions.
One of the main goals of the UP treatment is to increase your cognitive flexibility. It is common for those who struggle with emotional disorders to get “stuck” in unhelpful thinking patterns about their experiences. To get “unstuck” UP teaches you skills to allow you to think more flexibly.
The treatment focuses on two main thought styles that tend to increase our symptoms. This first is probability overestimation – when we overestimate the likelihood of a negative event occurring. The other is catastrophizing – when we think of the worst consequences if an event were to happen. Both of these thoughts, although common, increase your distress and leave you stuck in tunnel vision.
UP helps increase your thoughts’ flexibility by teaching you to consider other, more balanced alternatives. This adaptive strategy can help you to regulate and manage your emotions during difficult situations.
Another main component of the UP treatment is identifying unhelpful behaviours you engage in before a difficult situation (i.e. avoidance) or while experiencing distressing emotions that increase your symptoms. Given that evidence indicates that avoidance can increase distress, UP focuses on decreasing avoidance tendencies. Another behavioural goal of this treatment is to learn new, helpful behaviours you can engage in before, during, and after experiencing distressing emotions. These skills help to facilitate new learning and new memories for you to take with you and reinforce helpful behaviours in the future when distressing emotions arise.
La Ronge Counselling provides individual CBT counselling, following the Unified Protocol methodology. Each session is 50 minutes. Please note that the exact therapy depends on the client’s symptoms as treatment is individualized to the client’s needs.
Complete the Depression & Anxiety Self-Report and receive the results in your email.
Halford, W. K., & Frost, A. D. J. (2021). Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-10: A Brief Measure for Routine Psychotherapy Outcome and Progress Assessment. Behaviour Change: Journal of the Australian Behaviour Modification Association, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1017/bec.2021.12
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