Research Programme

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Styles of emotional processing in psychological disorder
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binocularsPeople referred by their medical practitioner to the local NHS Adult Mental Health teams in Dorset, England were posted a questionnaire booklet along with their appointment letter to see a clinical psychologist or counsellor.  The booklet contains an information sheet, the Emotional Processing Scale (EPS), the Brief Symptom Inventory ((BSI) Derogatis & Melisaratos, 1983) the twenty-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20 Bagby, Taylor & Parker, 1993), and demographic questions. An information sheet explains to participants issues such as confidentiality, purpose, and the voluntary nature of the study.  Participants are asked to complete the booklet and return it using the pre-paid envelope provided. As questionnaires are returned, a standardised form based on DSM III is sent to the psychologist/counsellor involved, for a diagnosis for each patient. Upon finishing therapy, people are contacted and asked to complete the same questionnaire booklet.

Specific questions asked in the research

1.  Are there differences between diagnostic groups in the way that they process their emotions?

It is anticipated that if different patterns are found then this may prove useful to practitioners in terms of providing them with a general understanding of the disorder and direction for psychological therapy and/or counselling.

2.  Does the EPS successfully measure the effectiveness of therapy (sensitivity to change) compared to other existing standardised measures of psychiatric functioning and emotional measures.

Here, we want to discover which emotional dimensions improve during therapy.  This pre and post assessment method will also help therapists to assess their work and audit their service.

3.  Do the emotional processing scores provide useful information to counsellors/psychologists?

The EPS is given to clients at the start of counselling/psychological therapy.  This provides therapists with information regarding the emotional processing strengths and weaknesses of individual clients.  We intend to interview therapists to discover whether this information is useful and if so how it influences the therapeutic process.  We also wish to determine if it improves therapists’ conceptualisation of their clients problems.

4.  How  does the emotional processing scale relate to psychiatric functioning and other measures of emotion?

We want to discover if emotional processing is simply the same thing as symptoms of psychological disorders, or is actually an independent dimension. We also want to know if emotional processing patterns in groups are independent of both the frequency and intensity of emotions. If emotional processing is really being measured then we expect a close but not identical relationship with other measures of emotion.

5.  Can we improve and adjust the EPS?

The EPS is being continually improved and adjusted in the light of feedback from the data that is being collected. For example, statistically poor items on the scale are removed and other fresh items are added. Work with psychometric methods, clinically derived experience, and the research literature in this area all have an influence on the overall structure of the EPS.