Coping through emotional approach: a new look at emotion, coping, and health-related outcomes

J Pers. 2004 Dec;72(6):1335-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2004.00299.x.


Researchers studying stress and coping processes have attempted to identify which coping strategies are most adaptive in stressful encounters. A generally accepted conclusion has been that emotion-focused coping processes are associated with dysfunctional outcomes. Studies from our and other research teams challenge the "bad reputation" of emotion-focused coping by demonstrating that items measuring emotion-focused strategies in published coping questionnaires are confounded with distress and self-deprecation. We have developed and validated new instruments to assess coping though acknowledging, understanding, and expressing emotion, that is, coping through emotional approach. Longitudinal and experimental studies using these new scales have documented the adaptive potential of emotional-approach coping in the context of several types of stressors, including infertility, breast cancer, and chronic pain. However, characteristics of the environmental context, stressful experience, and individual are important moderators of the relations of emotional-approach coping and health-related outcomes. Potential mediators and moderators of coping through emotional approach, clinical relevance of the construct, and directions for research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychometrics
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*