Do your clients have emotion efficacy?

Are some of your clients overwhelmed by their emotions? Does the knob seemed turned all the way up when they’re angry, ashamed, fearful, or sad? Do they struggle to avoid painful affect, and then, as they lose control, become overwhelmed by a tsunami of feelings? Do they believe that certain emotions are unbearable (distress intolerance), and that they lack the ability to face them? As you know, these are all features of emotion dysregulation, and a corresponding lack of emotion efficacy.

Emotion efficacy refers to both the beliefs people have about their ability to navigate their emotional life, as well as their skills and actual abilities to do so. People with high emotion efficacy are able to effectively experience challenging emotions, regulate their emotions through healthy coping, and express their values through their actions.

Emotion efficacy therapy (EET)  is an integrative treatment that draws components from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to form an exposure-based protocol. It specifically targets the transdiagnostic drivers of experiential avoidance and distress intolerance to increase the client’s emotion efficacy.

The promise of EET is that it helps clients to mindfully observe and accept their emotional pain, as well as learn skills to respond in more adaptive ways to emotional triggers. This is done in the context of imagery exposure to emotionally activating events, so clients have the opportunity to practice new mindfulness and coping skills in a triggered state. Clients also learn to observe the moment of choice—when they can opt for new, values-based responses or fall back into old, emotion-driven behaviors. Teaching emotion efficacy while doing exposure separates EET from other therapies—making it both shorter (as little as eight weeks) and highly effective (effect size: d=1.21 and 1.38).

For more information about emotion efficacy therapy, check out Emotion Efficacy Therapy.

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