Anxiety and depressive disorders are among the most prevalent mental health diagnoses in Australia, according to national surveys, and 60% to 70% of people with anxiety or depression have multiple diagnoses. Approximately 84% of people with an anxiety or related conditions do seek treatment from a healthcare provider, but only around 23% receive appropriate evidence-based psychosocial or pharmacological intervention.
While diagnosis-specific cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions have typically shown to be effective in treating multiple diagnoses in approximately 40% of cases, the remaining 60% continue to suffer from one or more clinically severe anxiety, depression, or related diagnoses in spite of receiving a full course of evidence-based CBT. Following the discovery of considerable genetic, neurological, developmental, behavioural, and cognitive data, transdiagnostic CBT interventions have been developed to form a new means of treatment.
This new, transdiagnostic, disorder-independent approach considers the biological, physical, and psychological symptoms, focusing on the person and their emotional difficulties as a whole to deliver tailored treatment. This, in part, improves patient access by reducing therapist training demands and effects better simultaneous outcomes on multiple diagnoses by targeting core common features rather than diagnosis-specific elements. Professor Peter Norton is the Director of Translational Research at the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences (MICCN). He is also one of two developers of the transdiagnostic treatment model, and was Guest Editor of a recently published, special edition of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, focussing on transdiagnostic approaches.
Professor Norton stated, “As well as providing better treatment for those experiencing anxiety and other emotional disorders, transdiagnostic treatments offer a number of appealing advantages to the mental health field. These include conceptual advantages such as better matching research-driven models of mental health problems, healthcare system advantages such as improved ease of dissemination, and basic clinical advantages such as improvements in the ability to address comorbidity – that is, the presence of one or more additional diseases or disorders co-occurring with the primary disorder.”
Professor Norton and his team provide a public service for those over the age of 18 experiencing anxiety, depression, and other similar emotional disorders. The FEAR Clinic, housed within the Monash Psychology Centre, is adopting the transdiagnostic approach, meaning that those who attend are first-in-line to benefit from this new groundbreaking approach to treatment. He said, “Our highly trained and qualified clinicians have altered their perspective and treatment approach; from using a diagnosis-specific mechanism to reduce diagnosis-related symptoms, to one centred around using a broad process to improve an individual’s quality of life.”