ABSTRACT Generalized anxiety disorder and major depression (often termed “distress disorders”; see Watson, 2005) are commonly comorbid and appear to be characterized by temperamental features that reflect heightened sensitivity to underlying motivational systems related to threat/safety and reward/loss. Further, individuals with these disorders tend to perseverate (i.e., worry, ruminate) as a way to manage this motivationally relevant distress and often utilize these self-conscious processes to the detriment of engaging new contextual learning. Emotion Regulation Therapy integrates principles from traditional and contemporary cognitive behavioral treatments (e.g., skills training & exposure) with basic and translational findings from affect science to offer a blueprint for improving intervention by focusing on the motivational responses and corresponding regulatory characteristics of individuals with distress
disorders. This emphasis on affect science permits identification of candidate mechanisms of treatment in terms of core disruptions of normative cognitive, emotional, and motivational systems, which in turn, helps generate more targeted solutions for clients to utilize adaptive ways to cope or compensate for these core deficits. In essence, contrasting a client’s difficulties with what we understand as normative functioning allows us to generate theory-driven hypotheses that form that basis of our case conceptualization and treatment planning. Outcome and mechanism data provide preliminary support for the use of ERT to treat distress disorders.