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transdiagnostic

By Erin Heath, New Harbinger Publications Blog Editor

The Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) Annual Convention is a four-day conference devoted to bringing the cognitive behavioral community together to “stimulate thinking about the myriad issues that surround cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and how it intersects with other disciplines,” as the organization puts it. New Harbinger staff have returned to our Oakland office, letting the experience of the conference sink in.

By Rochelle I. Frank, PhD and Joan Davidson, PhD

Many clients have symptoms common to multiple diagnoses, and many problems don’t have prescribed treatments. The outpouring of research generating new therapies makes it virtually impossible for therapists to stay current, and we can’t become masterful in all the treatments available to us. Figuring out what to target, how to meet clients’ specific needs, and which interventions to use can overwhelm even the most senior clinician.

We all have our own ways of handling stressful situations without letting emotions get the best of us, but some ways of coping work better than others. Short-term fixes that help us avoid or numb our emotions may temporarily alleviate sadness and anger, but can also end up causing anxiety, depression, chronic anger, and even physical health problems. If you struggle with overwhelming emotions and feel trapped by unhealthy patterns, this workbook is your ticket out.

In our last several posts, we’ve been talking about a transdiagnostic approach to treatment that focuses on underlying psychological mechanisms rather than symptom-based protocols that prescribe different treatment interventions for separate disorders. Today we’ll take a look at some examples of the models that have been developed thus far for putting this approach into practice.

As we’ve been discussing over the last few weeks, current trends are shifting away from a symptom-based, disorder-specific approach that prescribes different treatment interventions for separate disorders. Instead, there is increasing interest in and support for an approach that focuses on the common psychological processes underlying presenting symptoms of different disorders that contribute to mental health problems.

Last week we began our discussion of transdiagnostic approaches to case formulation and treatment planning with a piece on the limitations of empirically-supported treatments. One of the primary motivations for this approach is that many times patients present with multiple symptoms, which makes it difficult if not impossible for clinicians to neatly classify them with one diagnosis or another in order to begin treatment.

Empirically-supported treatments (ESTs)—manualized protocols developed in clinical research settings and then proven effective in randomized controlled trials—have epitomized the gold standard of mental health practice for decades and therapists and patients have benefited greatly from these scientific advances. But people generally do not fit neatly within the clearly defined diagnostic categories on which ESTs are based and tested.

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part Q&A with Rochelle Frank, PhD, and Joan Davidson, PhD, authors of The Transdiagnostic Road Map to Case Formulation and Treatment Planning. For part one, click here.

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part Q&A with Rochelle Frank, PhD, and Joan Davidson, PhD, authors of The Transdiagnostic Road Map to Case Formulation and Treatment Planning.

In summary, why do we need a transdiagnostic road map? 

Over the past several decades the behavioral health care community has witnessed a veritable explosion of empirically supported treatments (ESTs), which has advanced our understanding of both the psychological mechanisms underlying emotional and behavioral disorders and the evidence-based interventions that target them.

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