This paper presents the development of spectral element methods to simulate unsteady flows of viscoelastic fluids using a closed-form differential constitutive equation. The generation and decay Poiseuille planar flows are considered as benchmark problems to test the abilities of our computational method to deal with truly time-dependent flows. Satisfactory results converging toward steady-state regimes have been obtained for the flow through a four-to-one planar abrupt contraction with unsteady algorithms. Time-dependent simulations of viscoelastic flows are prone to numerical instabilities even for simple geometrical configurations. Possible methods to improve the numerical stability of the computational algorithms are discussed in view of the results carried out with numerical simulations for the flows through a straight channel and the four-to-one contraction.