Evaluation of an intervention promoting emotion regulation skills for adults with persisting distress due to adverse childhood experiences


This phase II trial evaluated psychosocial and health outcomes of an intervention designed to improve emotion regulation skills in adults suffering from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The study utilized a pretest-posttest design in which 92 adults enrolled in the community-based program completed pretest measures, attended either a faith-based or secular version of the 12-week ACE Overcomers program, and then completed posttest measures. The theory-guided program involved group sessions providing education and skills training to improve emotion regulation, self-awareness, resilience, and social functioning. Pretest and posttest surveys included measures of emotional regulation (suppression, rumination, cognitive reappraisal, and mindfulness), resilience (ego resilience and general self-efficacy), emotional experiences (perceived stress, moods, and depressive symptoms), quality of life (the SF-36 domains), and physical symptoms and illness (symptom load and sick days). Analyses revealed significant improvements from pretest to posttest in all facets of emotion regulation (p<.01), psychological resilience (p<.001), mental well-being (p<.001) and physical symptoms and illness (p<.001), and in specific facets of quality of life (p<.001). The faith-based and secular versions of the program yielded comparable improvements in well-being. Improvements were comparable for older versus younger participants, except that younger participants reported greater improvements in perceived stress (p<.05). These preliminary findings support the application of an emotion regulation perspective to interventions for adults with high ACEs. The study, with its single-group design, represents a promising step in the translational research pathway and provides support for further studies utilizing comparison groups.