Learning healthy emotional processes is important to mental health. As human beings, we have emotional natures. However, growing up many of us received messages that some emotions were acceptable, while others were unacceptable. We may have developed a habit of repressing certain feelings that is detrimental to our well-being. Or, we may never have learned how to achieve our own emotional regulation.
Emotional regulation can be defined simply as the ability to manage our emotions. This capability is particularly important to people with substance use disorders because drinking or using is often rooted in emotional triggers.
Jessica van ’t Hof, MC is the Clinical Lead at CARE for Women, a women’s addiction treatment facility in Calgary, Alberta. She defines emotional regulation more specifically. “I would define emotional regulation as the ability to feel our feelings in an optimal way, to process those feelings at an appropriate time, and to learn from them.” In supporting women through emotional processes during treatment, van ’t Hof takes an individualized approach.
Attitude Toward Emotional Experiences
At CARE, women are supported in learning to process emotions and encouraged to examine their inner experiences to gain greater awareness. Examining the experience may include noticing body sensations such as heat, muscle tension, or feelings of unease. It could also include awareness of thoughts, inner dialogue, and even noticing broad phenomenon such as “thinking”, or the feelings of distraction. “The attitude we take to our emotional experiences is important,” says van ‘t Hof. “Learning to love and take care of the parts of ourselves that we may not always really like, can be a key to meaningful change”.