Practicing psychotherapists are more skilled at downregulating negative emotions than other professionals.

J.L. Pletzer, Xavier Sanchez, Susanne Scheibe

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Laypeople and psychotherapists alike tend to assume that psychotherapists are more effective than the average population in regulating negative emotions. Being receptive to patients' distress and being able to downregulate negative emotions are important skills for psychotherapists to provide effective help and sustain their own well-being. We investigated whether psychotherapists react to negative material differently and downregulate emotions more effectively than individuals working in other, nontherapeutic, professions. Practicing psychotherapists (n = 21) and a control group of nontherapists (n = 18) were exposed to pictures designed to elicit negative emotions in varying intensities and were asked to rate their emotional response, first after viewing them naturally and then after choosing and applying one of two given regulation strategies (i.e., distraction and reappraisal). Both groups responded similarly in terms of emotional reactivity and strategy choices, but psychotherapists were more effective than nontherapists in reducing their emotional response after applying emotion regulation strategies. We suggest that psychotherapists' comparable emotional reactivity and more effective emotion regulation make them well prepared to provide effective help to patients and safeguard their own well-being.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)346-350
    Issue number52
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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