Q-and-A with Michael Southam-Gerow, author of "Emotion Regulation in Children and Adolescents: A Practitioner's Guide"

As associate professor in the departments of Psychology and Pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University, co-director of the Anxiety Clinic at VCU and the director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Michael Southam-Gerow, Ph.D., wears many hats. This month, he adds book author to that list with the publication of his first book, "Emotion Regulation in Children and Adolescents: A Practitioner's Guide."

The guide presents strategies for helping children and adolescents understand and cope with challenging emotional experiences.

Why did you decide to write "Emotion Regulation in Children and Adolescents: A Practitioner's Guide"?
My dissertation research focused on emotion in children with anxiety disorders and I became interested in both the relative paucity of emotion-focused research on youth and the lack of an emotion focus in treating youth.

How do therapies for children and adolescents differ from those for adults?
Therapy types (like cognitive-behavioral therapy) are relatively similar for youth and adults. That is, the theory and many of the practices used are similar. However, for youth, one must adapt the content for the youth's developmental level and also must account for caregiver involvement and participation.

Why are emotion-focused research on youth and an emotion focus in treating youth important?
Emotion-focused research for youth is important for a few reasons. First, emotions are central to human experience. Second, emotional development is a key focus of childhood. That is, kids learn about emotions and how to deal with them — emotion regulation is not innate. Third, difficulties regulating emotion are a part of many of the problems for which families seek treatment for youths. A fourth reason would be that until recently, emotion was NOT a focus of most treatment despite these previous reasons. So the book sheds light on an important and neglected topic.

How does this book differ from other books on the subject?

This is one of the first books that offers specific emotion-focused strategies for children and adolescents. There are books on this topic for adults, but few if any for youth. Also, worth noting that the book focuses on a broad range of child/adolescent problems. Most books tend to focus on a single problem area. Another distinction is that I used a modular format for the book. Modularity is a relatively new concept in psychological treatments. In brief, it may be easiest to understand modularity by thinking of Lego bricks. Lego sets come with 100 or so bricks and a plan. You can follow the plan and you will have a lovely creation (like a helicopter, or a car). However, you can also NOT follow the plan and still make a useable item. Lego are meant to be modular in that they can be used in a variety of orders. Similarly, the treatment strategies described in the book are presented in a particular order. However, they are designed to be used in any order that fits the client.

Why did you choose the modular format?
Modularity allows for flexible design. Given that youth come for mental health treatment with a variety of concerns, the need for flexibility has become clearer to the field. As one recent example, Weisz et al. (2012) found that a modular approach to treating child problems (anxiety, depression, and conduct) was superior to a control treatment and on some outcome measures, to a more standard approach (i.e., following the plan).

Who will benefit the most from this guide?
Mental health workers who focus on youth and teachers. Some parents may find the book useful, though the book is not a book for parents.

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Southam-Gerow, Michael
Southam-Gerow, Michael