The present study aimed to understand the contributions of both the trait tendency to experience negative emotions and how one relates to such experience in predicting symptom change during participation in the Unified Protocol (UP), a transdiagnostic treatment for emotional disorders. Data were derived from a randomized controlled trial comparing the UP to a waitlist control/delayed-treatment condition. First, effect sizes of pre- to post-treatment change for frequency of negative emotions and several variables measuring reactivity to emotional experience (emotional awareness and acceptance, fear of emotions, and anxiety sensitivity) were examined. Second, the relative contributions of change in negative emotions and emotional reactivity in predicting symptom (clinician-rated anxiety, depression, and severity of principal diagnosis) reductions were investigated. Results suggested that decreases in the frequency of negative emotions and reactivity to emotions following participation in the UP were both large in magnitude. Further, two emotional reactivity variables (fear of emotions and anxiety sensitivity) remained significantly related to symptom outcomes when controlling for negative emotions, and accounted for significant incremental variance in their prediction. These findings lend support to the notion that psychological health depends less on the frequency of negative emotions and more on how one relates to these emotions when they occur.
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