The Most Effective Emotion Regulation Strategy – Psychology Today


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An article published in the June 2021 issue of Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, by Southward and colleagues, explores the most effective emotion regulation strategies, as chosen by 582 therapists in the U.S.

Best Emotion Regulation Strategies: Investigation

Participants were 582 practicing trainees and therapists, with an average age of 42 years; 76 percent were female; 86 percent were Caucasian; they had a median of 4,000 hours of experience.

The sample’s primary theoretical orientations consisted of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and non-CBT.

  • CBT: Cognitive (18 percent), behavioral (25 percent), and third wave/acceptance-based therapy (12.0 percent).
  • Non-CBT: Existential (3 percent), interpersonal (7 percent), psychodynamic (15 percent), Rogerian (4 percent), and other (16.0 percent).

The participating clinicians were presented with 11 vignettes describing common stressful situations their patients may encounter. These included stressors related to interpersonal issues (e.g., fighting with one’s romantic partner; not receiving an invitation to a party), school (e.g., failing an important test), finances (e.g., trying to get a loan), and physical illness (e.g., becoming ill with mononucleosis).

The clinicians were tasked with identifying, for patients facing the above stressful situations, the best emotion regulation strategy from the following list:

Acceptance (e.g., of emotions or situations), distraction, hiding one’s feelings, expressing one’s emotions, gathering additional information, trying to