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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 20;8(11):e79314. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079314. eCollection 2013.

Soothing the threatened brain: leveraging contact comfort with emotionally focused therapy.

Author information

1
School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario; International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2014;9(8):e105489.

Abstract

Social relationships are tightly linked to health and well-being. Recent work suggests that social relationships can even serve vital emotion regulation functions by minimizing threat-related neural activity. But relationship distress remains a significant public health problem in North America and elsewhere. A promising approach to helping couples both resolve relationship distress and nurture effective interpersonal functioning is Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples (EFT), a manualized, empirically supported therapy that is strongly focused on repairing adult attachment bonds. We sought to examine a neural index of social emotion regulation as a potential mediator of the effects of EFT. Specifically, we examined the effectiveness of EFT for modifying the social regulation of neural threat responding using an fMRI-based handholding procedure. Results suggest that EFT altered the brain's representation of threat cues in the presence of a romantic partner. EFT-related changes during stranger handholding were also observed, but stranger effects were dependent upon self-reported relationship quality. EFT also appeared to increase threat-related brain activity in regions associated with self-regulation during the no-handholding condition. These findings provide a critical window into the regulatory mechanisms of close relationships in general and EFT in particular.

PMID:
24278126
PMCID:
PMC3835900
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0079314
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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