Emotion Regulation Training Falls Short

Borderline symptoms for teens were not improved by adding emotion regulation training

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) There are many types of therapy out there. It can be hard to know which one to choose. A recent study looked at emotion regulation training for teens with borderline personality symptoms.

They had some teens add 17 weeks of emotion regulation training to their normal therapy.  The researchers found adding this training was not any better than having more typical types of therapy.

Emotion regulation training is designed to help people control intense emotions and improve coping skills. Emotion regulation training combines aspects of other therapy types. It uses homework assignments, works on changes in thinking, teaches mindfulness, and educates people about how to regulate emotions.

"Ask a psychiatrist which therapy is right for your teen."

Researchers, led by H. Marieke Schuppert, MD, PhD, of the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, wanted to know if emotion regulation training would be helpful for teens with borderline personality disorder (BPD). They enrolled 109 teens with borderline personality traits. Most of the teens in the study (73 percent) had BPD.

The other 27 percent had symptoms of BPD but not quite enough symptoms to meet the criteria for the disorder.

The teens in the study were assigned to one of two groups.  One group of 54 people added emotion regulation training to their treatments. The other group of 55 people did not add the training.

All the teens in the study continued their normal treatments like medication, family therapy, counseling and individual therapy. The teens who got emotion regulation training met in groups once a week for 17 weeks. Each weekly session lasted an hour and 45 minutes.

At the beginning of the study, just after treatment and six months after treatment ended, teens in the study were interviewed about their symptoms. The researchers measured symptoms of BPD, symptoms of depression and quality of life.

The researchers found that all the teens in the study, regardless of which group they were in, showed improved symptoms and higher quality of life after 17 weeks. The emotion regulation training did not add any extra benefit.

The authors concluded that short-term emotion regulation training did not add to the recovery of teens with BPD.  They suggest longer-term treatments are probably best.

dailyRx News spoke with Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD, a licensed psychologist, about the results of this study.

She said, "In general, parents should look for a licensed psychologist who specializes in treating teens and who uses evidence-based treatment. Evidence has shown that having a good working relationship is really important for therapy outcomes, so make sure that your teen really likes their therapist, feels comfortable talking to them and is engaged in the treatment.”

She went on to say, “Also talk to your therapist about family-based therapy and being involved in your teen’s treatment. Having your support and involvement will make a big difference."

This study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology. The study was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development. Drs. Schuppert, vanGemert, and Wiersema authored a training manual on Emotion Regulation Training that is for sale in the Netherlands.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 17, 2012
Last Updated:
December 20, 2012