Affect regulation, or emotion regulation, is the ability to modulate one’s emotional state in order to meet the demands of their environment in an adaptive way. Individuals with a broad range of affect regulation strategies will be able to adapt to a range of stressful situations. Individuals with a more limited emotional regulation abilities may fall back upon a more limited range of stereotyped strategies that are not as successful in meeting their needs, or which come with more severe unintended consequences. The ability to successfully regulate emotion is often viewed in the light of attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969/1982).
Whereas techniques such as socratic questioning aims to help clients to synthesise information that they already have, sometimes distress arises because clients lack critical psychological information. This section contains information that clients may find helpful.
Case formulation is the core component of CBT. It can help therapists and clients to understand the origin, current status, and maintenance of problem. Formulations can range from cross-sectional (here and now) to longitudinal (understanding origins), and from models for specific disorders to idiosyncratic for a particular client’s situation. “[Formulation is] The lynch pin that holds theory and practice together” (Butler, 1998)
Although avoidance is a natural mechanism for coping with many kinds of pain or trauma it also serves to maintain a wide range of psychological problems. In the short term avoidance can lead to the (reinforcing) reward of a reduction in real or imagined anxiety – this is the motivator for its use as a coping strategy. In the long term, though, avoidance can act to prevent the disconfirmation of unhelpful beliefs. Further, the use of avoidance as a coping strategy can lead to further unintended negative consequences.
Exposure is the most common therapeutic strategy used to overcome avoidance. There are many varieties of exposure including: in-vivo, imaginal, graded, and interoceptive. Exposure often involves asking a client to face their worst fears, and clear case formulation / coneptualization is critically important in presenting a rationale for exposure.
Mindfulness is present moment awareness. It means paying attention to our thoughts, emotions, and feelings in the body as they are happening and adopting an attitude of curiosity and compassion.