Accepting negative feelings provides emotional relief

February 23, 2012, University of Twente

Many adults suffer from mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety symptoms. This puts them at increased risk of developing a mental disorder. Proactive intervention by the mental health services is therefore crucial if we want to reduce this risk.

“The problem is, people suffering from this type of depression and/or anxiety symptoms often fall below the radar,” says Martine Fledderus at the University of Twente (the Netherlands). “A possible explanation for this is that the existing range of self-help and courses focuses solely on reducing psychological distress. They concentrate on what is wrong with a person, thereby putting even greater emphasis on the symptoms. Intervention is focused on the disease model.” This does not have to be the case, according to Fledderus, who defended her PhD thesis on the subject on February 10.

Martine Fledderus’ PhD thesis evaluated the course Living to the full for adults with mild to moderate depression symptoms. “This particular course focuses on promoting positive mental health, instead of eliminating suffering, or reducing symptoms. This is in line with new guidance on the recognition and treatment of mental health disorders — chiefly that mental health is more than just the absence of a mental illness. Positive mental health encompasses the social, psychological and emotional well-being of a person and various studies indicate that mental health may be a protective factor against mental disorders.”

The Living to the full course is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), supplemented with mindfulness exercises. The most important process in this therapy is to increase psychological flexibility, i.e. the ability to accept negative feelings and thoughts, to be in touch with the present moment, and to act in every situation according to one’s own values. This helps develop the ability to lead a meaningful and valuable life and thus to become more psychologically flexible.

Fledderus’ study evaluated the course Living to the full as a group therapy course and a self-help course with e-mail counselling. Both the group therapy course and the self-help course were effective in reducing psychological symptoms (such as depression, anxiety and fatigue) and in increasing psychological flexibility, mindfulness and positive mental health. The findings of her thesis showed that by promoting psychological flexibility, psychological distress is reduced and positive mental health is increased.

Thirteen and many primary care psychologists are now offering the popular group therapy course Living to the full. The first self-help course received more than six hundred applicants within five days. This is confirmation that a course focusing on positive mental health is popular and accessible. Given the evident beneficial effects of such a course and its wide accessibility, Fledderus believes that the Living to the full course could have a significant impact on public .

Explore further: Clinic offers a 'virtual' helping hand

Related Stories

Clinic offers a 'virtual' helping hand

November 8, 2011
A sophisticated new open-access online psychology clinic is helping people with mental health disorders better manage their symptoms.

Lifestyle choices keep health all in the mind

July 28, 2011
Physical activity and being a volunteer assist mental wellbeing, a new ACT research report has found.

Young drivers who take risks on the road have a greater risk of mental health problems

May 16, 2011
Young adults who take risks when driving are more likely to experience psychological distress, including mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, reveals research published ahead of print in Injury Prevention.

People experiencing mental distress less likely to have health insurance

October 4, 2011
People with frequent mental distress are markedly more likely that than those with frequent physical distress to lack health insurance, according to research appearing the October issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal ...

Serious distress linked to higher health care spending

May 13, 2011
Sufferers of serious psychological distress spend an average of $1,735 more on health care each year compared to those without the condition. However, recognizing psychological distress and treating it is often complicated ...

UK researchers rank best online advice for postnatal depression

February 7, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the University of Sussex have identified the top five internet sites offering support for women struggling with postnatal mental illness such as depression or anxiety.

Recommended for you

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.