Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Changes in decentering and reappraisal temporally precede symptom reduction during Emotion Regulation Therapy for generalized anxiety disorder with and without co-occurring depression

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  • Mia S. O'Toole
  • Megan E. Renna, Columbia University, United States
  • Douglas S. Mennin, Columbia University, United States
  • David M. Fresco, Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, United States
Emotion Regulation Therapy (ERT) has demonstrated efficacy in both open and randomized trials for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with and without co-occurring depression. An important goal in ERT is to teach clients adaptive emotion regulation, including healthier metacognitive abilities such as decentering and cognitive reappraisal. A few studies thus far have demonstrated a mediating role for these metacognitive abilities in other cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs) for GAD. However, a drawback to most of these has been the ability to demonstrate a causal role for improved metacognitive abilities in outcome. In the present study, we utilized multilevel time-lagged segment analyses to explore the temporal dynamics between session-by-session changes in metacognition and anxiety outcomes from ERT. Thirty-one young adults diagnosed with GAD with and without co-occurring depression received 16 sessions of ERT. Prior to each session, participants completed questionnaires pertaining to metacognition (i.e., decentering and cognitive reappraisal) and anxiety symptoms (i.e., worry, trait anxiousness, and generalized anxiety). Changes in decentering temporally preceded changes in worry and trait anxiousness of a medium to large magnitude, and changes in cognitive reappraisal temporally preceded changes in all three outcomes of a medium to large magnitude. The reverse direction, where mediators were predicted by outcomes, was nonsignificant. These findings support the notion that adaptive metacognitive emotion regulation is involved in reducing worry and anxiety in GAD. Having a clearer understanding of the temporal dynamics between metacognitive abilities and symptoms of anxiety can inform and improve not only ERT but other CBTs for GAD, as well.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Therapy
Pages (from-to)1042-1052
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

    Research areas

  • CBT, GAD, distress disorders, emotion regulation, mediation

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