Importance: Occupational and physical therapists’ use of intrapersonal and interpersonal emotion regulation strategies may play an important role in building therapeutic relationships, but little is known about how they use these strategies during patient interactions.
Objective: To understand how therapists use intrapersonal and interpersonal emotion regulation strategies during their patient interactions.
Design: This qualitative study consisted of two stages of data collection. In Stage 1, therapists were interviewed regarding how they use emotion regulation strategies in their therapeutic relationships. In Stage 2, patient–therapist dyads were observed during treatment sessions and then interviewed at the end of the therapeutic relationship.
Setting: Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation hospitals and clinics in the United Kingdom.
Participants: In Stage 1, 13 occupational therapists and 9 physical therapists participated; in Stage 2, 14 patient–therapist dyads participated.
Outcome and Measures: A semistructured interview guide was used to ask therapists how they use emotion regulation strategies during patient interactions.
Results: Therapists used a wide range of interpersonal and intrapersonal emotion regulation strategies that can be categorized in prominent emotion regulation strategy taxonomies. They used these strategies both proactively, in anticipation of emotional events, and reactively, in response to emotional events. Their use helped them to build and maintain the therapeutic relationship and to protect themselves, feel better, and get their jobs done.
Conclusions and Relevance: The ability to regulate one’s own and others’ emotions is an essential part of therapists’ work. In this study, therapists used a wide range of emotion regulation strategies to benefit themselves and their patients.
What This Article Adds: This is the first study to identify the specific intrapersonal and interpersonal emotion regulation strategies used by occupational and physical therapists during patient–therapist interactions. This study makes an important contribution to understanding therapists’ use of proactive and reactive emotion regulation strategies to build and maintain therapeutic relationships.