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Training and Education in Professional Psychology 2009, Vol. 3, No. 3, 148 –156

In the public domain DOI: 10.1037/1931-3918.a0014801

A Contextual Behavioral Approach to the Role of Emotion in Psychotherapy Supervision
VA Maryland Health Care System, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Sonja V. Batten

Andrew P. Santanello
VA Maryland Health Care System

As behavior therapyexpands to address problems related to private events, appropriate methods of supervision must be developed to train individuals to work with the full range of human experience, using a behavioral model. The authors suggest that therapists’ in-session emotions are an important source of information about the impact of clients’ behavior on others. Contextual behavior therapists may enhance theireffectiveness in meeting clients’ needs by attending to the therapist’s own emotional responses. This paper provides a contextual behavioral rationale for including a focus on emotion in supervision, with a four-phase model for shaping early trainees’ ability to use their emotional reactions to facilitate therapy in a coherent manner. Keywords: behavior therapy, emotion, psychotherapy, supervision,training

Most schools of psychotherapy recognize that the emotional experience of the therapist is a relevant source of information when conducting psychological treatment. As novice therapists learn the specific skills and techniques necessary to conduct therapy, they must also learn to conceptualize the role of emotion within the specific theoretical orientation from which they are working.Furthermore, they must develop the skills necessary to respond to their own emotional responses in a therapeutic manner. These skills and abilities may develop naturally as a trainee gains more experience. However, we argue that these skills also may be trained directly in supervision. In this paper we will present a pragmatic approach that supervisors can use to directly shape their trainees’abilities to use emotional reactions that occur in the context of the therapeutic relationship to discover and address clinically relevant behavior.

Why is Therapist Emotional Awareness Clinically Important?
Therapists’ emotional self-awareness may provide important benefits in the conduct of psychotherapy and is thus an appropriate

SONJA V. BATTEN, PhD, earned her doctorate in ClinicalPsychology from the University of Nevada Reno. She is currently a Department of Veterans Affairs employee who serves as the Deputy Director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Dr. Batten’s research interests include traumatic stress, women’s health, experiential avoidance, and acceptance-based psychotherapy. ANDREW P. SANTANELLO is a clinicalpsychologist employed by the VA Maryland Health Care system. He earned a PsyD in clinical psychology from LaSalle University. Dr. Santanello’s research interests include angerrelated problems in living and acceptance and mindfulness-based psychological treatments. CORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING THIS ARTICLE should be addressed to Sonja V. Batten, PhD, Deputy Director, Defense Centers of Excellence forPsychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, 1335 East West Highway, Suite 9-712, Silver Spring, MD 20910. E-mail: 148

and important focus of clinical supervision. For example, emotional self-awareness may be a factor contributing to therapists’ empathic ability. Therapists who are more aware of their own emotions are likely to be more sensitive to the emotional experiences oftheir clients (Machado, Beutler, & Greenberg, 1999). Also, emotional self-awareness allows the therapist to access an additional source of clinical data concerning the effects of clients’ behaviors: the therapist’s own private reactions. It has been argued that the most salient consequences of clients’ behavior in the context of the therapeutic relationship are the public and private reactions...
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