Toward a Unified Treatment for Emotional Disorders: Update on the Science and Practice

Behav Ther. 2016 Nov;47(6):854-868. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2015.07.002. Epub 2015 Jul 17.


Mental health professionals have long been concerned with describing and proscribing a structure around the myriad variations of psychological and emotional distress that are deemed to be disordered. This has frequently been characterized as a conflict between so-called "lumpers" and "splitters"-those who advocate broad categorizations based on overarching commonalities versus those who endeavor toward a highly refined structure emphasizing unique characteristics. Many would argue that with the era of the modern Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III to DSM-5), a splitting ideology has been dominant despite re-emerging concerns that some groups of diagnoses, particularly disorders of anxiety and other emotions, may be more similar than different. As a result of such concerns, transdiagnostic or unified models of psychopathology have burgeoned. In this review, we describe the work of Barlow, Allen, and Choate (2004), whose invited paper "Toward a Unified Treatment for Emotional Disorders" reignited transdiagnostic perspectives of emotional disorders. We provide an update on the scientific models and evidence-based treatments that have followed in the wake of this 2004 publication, including key areas for future study in the advancement of transdiagnostic and unified treatment of emotional disorders.

Keywords: anxiety; transdiagnostic; treatment; unified.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*