Monday, 31 March 2014

Feelings Into Words

Contributions of Language to Exposure Therapy

A growing body of research has revealed that labeling an emotion, or putting one’s feelings into words, can help to downregulate that affect, as occurs with intentional forms of emotion regulation, such as reappraisal and distraction. We translated this basic research to a real-world clinical context, in which spider-fearful individuals were repeatedly exposed to a live spider. Using a between-subjects design, we compared the effects of affect labeling, reappraisal, distraction from the feared stimulus, and exposure alone during this brief course of exposure therapy on subsequent fear responding. At a 1-week posttest involving a different spider in another context, the affect-labeling group exhibited reduced skin conductance response relative to the other groups and marginally greater approach behavior than the distraction group; however, the affect-labeling group did not differ from the other groups in self-reported fear. Additionally, greater use of anxiety and fear words during exposure was associated with greater reductions in fear responding. Thus, perhaps surprisingly, affect labeling may help to regulate aspects of emotion in a clinical context


Author / Source:  Katharina Kircanski, Psychological Science

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