Single-Session Emotion Regulation Skills Training to Reduce Aggression in Combat Veterans: A Clinical Innovation Case Study

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Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among returning veterans, and aggression frequently co-occurs with PTSD. Veterans with PTSD most commonly engage in impulsive aggression, or aggression that is emotionally charged, unplanned, and uncontrolled, rather than premeditated aggression, which is planned and controlled. Previous research demonstrated a variety of emotions can result in aggression, rather than the traditional conceptualization that only anger leads to aggression. In a veteran sample, deficiencies in the ability to regulate emotions (emotion dysregulation) mediated the relationship between PTSD and impulsive aggression. These results suggest that teaching veterans with PTSD and impulsive aggression how to regulate emotions may decrease aggression. The cases presented illustrate the use of an innovative, single-session emotion regulation treatment for combat veterans with PTSD. Two cases are presented to generate hypotheses on who might benefit from this treatment in the future. The two male veterans treated with this protocol differed in how frequently they used the emotion regulation skills after the treatment and in their treatment outcomes. Teaching veterans how to regulate their emotions in a condensed time frame may be beneficial for certain veterans, and further research on this brief treatment is warranted.

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