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Emotional cognition is defined by the American Psychological Association as “the ability to recognize and interpret the emotions of others, notably from such cues as facial expression and voice tone, and to interpret one’s own feelings correctly.” Emotion regulation is one of the four key areas of focus that make up the psychotherapeutic intervention known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Dialectical behavior therapy is derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Marsha M. Linehan developed DBT in the late 1980s as a means to better treat suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). While DBT is founded on the CBT approach, DBT places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of treatment. Dialectical behavior therapy is made up of three distinct therapeutic settings, which include: weekly group DBT skills sessions, weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The four modules of DBT include core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. Psychology Today explains that the “goal of DBT is to transform negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviors into positive outcomes.” Although DBT was originally developed to treat individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, evidence has shown it to be a successful treatment method for individuals diagnosed with other mental health illnesses.

Emotion Regulation Module

This DBT module focuses on teaching an array of helpful skills including how to properly identify and label emotions, increase positive emotional events, increase mindfulness to current emotions, identify obstacles in the way of changing emotions, and application techniques addressed during the distress tolerance module. Emotion regulation is defined as “the process by which individuals influence which emotions they have, when they have them, and how they experience and express their feelings. Emotional regulation can be automatic or controlled, conscious or unconscious, and may have effects at one or more points in the emotion producing process.” The emotion regulation module in DBT teaches important de-escalation skills, including various strategies intended to help an individual learn to decrease the intensity of their emotions, sit with and experience strong emotions that are causing problems in one’s life. While there are many, Psychology Today provides the following three most common types of emotion regulation strategies:

  1. Attentional control: which refers to “the cognitive processes that coordinate and direct our attention to specific aspects of our world…”
  2. Cognitive reappraisal: which refers to “a flexible regulatory strategy that draws on cognitive control and executive functioning to reframe stimuli or situations within the environment to change their meaning and emotional valence.”
  3. Response modulation: which refers to “efforts to modify an emotion after it has been fully generated.”

Emotion regulation helps individuals learn to experience strong emotions while simultaneously reducing the intensity of the emotions without reacting impulsively. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment. 

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