Personalized medicine has become a focus in physical and psychological health. No treatment works the same on every client. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what methods of treatment work most effectively for each client based on his or her unique factors, such as age, sex, race, and prior history. When treating people with anxiety, one such variable to consider is the presence of other mood issues—depression in particular. The two most commonly accepted approaches for anxiety are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which includes exposure to anxiety-inducing cues, and acceptance commitment therapy (ACT), which strives to teach a client how to accept anxious emotions as they occur. Although there has been much research exploring the effectiveness of both types of therapy, few studies have looked at how variables such as symptom severity and comorbidity influence treatment outcome.
In an effort to work toward more personalized medicine, Kate B. Taylor-Wolitzky of the Department of Psychology at UCLA recently conducted a study that examined the effectiveness of ACT and CBT on a diverse sample of clients with varying levels of anxiety. She recruited 87 participants, enrolled them in 12 sessions of CBT or ACT, and assessed their anxiety prior to treatment and three more times after therapy concluded. She found that CBT and ACT worked uniquely well at reducing symptoms of anxiety depending on the baseline levels. Specifically, Taylor-Wolitzky discovered that CBT produced better results for clients with moderate anxiety than for those with minimal or extreme symptoms. For individuals with extremely high or low levels of anxiety, ACT was more effective. Additionally, the participants with comorbid depression also had better results with ACT.
Taylor-Wolitzky found that factors such as race, age, and sex did not affect outcomes. The findings of this study suggest that personalized medicine is a goal all therapists should strive for. It is important that factors such as mood disorders, panic, and fear be considered when designing a treatment approach for a client with anxiety. Taylor-Wolitzky hopes the results of her study will help clinicians striving to achieve a personalized approach for their clients. “This finding suggests a helpful prescriptive picture: Those with comorbid mood disorders should be treated with ACT whereas those without comorbid mood disorders may benefit more in the long-term from CBT,” she said.
Wolitzky-Taylor, Kate B., Joanna J. Arch, David Rosenfield, and Michelle G. Craske. Moderators and non-specific predictors of treatment outcome for anxiety disorders: A comparison of cognitive behavioral therapy to acceptance and commitment therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 80.5 (2012): 786-99. Print.
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