Emotional Change in its “Natural Habitat”: Measuring Everyday Emotion Regulation With Passive and Active Ambulatory Assessment Methods

Deanna M. Kaplan, Christopher D. Hughes, Heather T. Schatten, Matthias R. Mehl, Michael F. Armey, Nicole R. Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Ambulatory assessment methods have made it possible to study psychological phenomena in real-time, with translational potential for psychotherapy process research. This article uses case example data to demonstrate applications of ambulatory assessment to measuring emotion regulation, a process with relevance across diagnoses and treatment modalities that may be particularly important to measure in situ. Two methods are reviewed: Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), which enables self-reported momentary assessments as people go about their days, and the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), an unobtrusive naturalistic observation methodology that collects short audio recordings from participants’ moment-to-moment environments, capturing an acoustic diary of their social interactions, daily behaviors, and natural daily language use. Using case example data from research applying EMA and EAR methods in the context of adolescent self-injurious thoughts and behaviors, we illustrate how EMA can be used to measure emotion regulation over time and across contexts, and how EAR can assess the behaviors and social-environmental factors that interact with emotion regulation in clinically important ways. We suggest applications of this measurement approach for investigations of clients’ emotional change over the course of psychotherapy, as well as potential clinical applications of these methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-140
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Psychotherapy Integration
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 22 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • ambulatory assessment
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • emotion regulation
  • experience sampling
  • naturalistic observation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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