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As a clinical psychologist who sees many anxious and otherwise distressed clients who have difficulties managing their emotions (I work in a college counseling center), the title The Road to Calm Workbook: Life-Changing Tools to Stop Runaway Emotions greatly appealed to me. In the Introduction, first author and fellow psychologist Carolyn Daitch notes that this workbook was an extension of a previous volume she authored specifically for clinicians, Affect Regulation Toolbox. She and co-author Lissah Loreberbaum, a psychotherapist, designed The Road to Calm Workbook to appeal to a wider audience struggling to manage a broader range of everyday emotional challenges.
The authors organize their workbook into two parts. The first centers around understanding emotional flooding, or the process by which healthy emotions become overwhelming. The latter section of the book focuses on self-regulation, introducing the STOP solution for managing emotional flooding (more on this below). Part 1 comprehensively lays out an overview of emotional flooding. Through case examples, self-assessments, trigger information, and various helpful charts and graphs, the authors provide an excellent overview of this concept. Yet I offer these praises as a clinician, not as a consumer--frankly, I am concerned that my clients would have little patience for wading through all of background material included in this section.
The heart of the workbook lies in Part II, "The Road to Self-Regulation." The authors begin here by describing what they term the Daily Stress Inoculation (DSI), a practice designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and thus to stimulate relaxation. The components of this method are simple, yet unusual--for example, the first of the five steps is an eye roll. This section continues with the "STOP" solution. In brief, STOP stands for Scan for thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sensations, Take a time out, Overcome initial flooding, and Put the 12 tools into practice. This method is similar to other mindfulness-based strategies, encouraging time to pause and reflect before reacting and responding. However, working with the flooding component is unique, as are the 12 tools, which are additional coping techniques to manage emotional flooding.
The DSI and the 12 tools are described in detail in the workbook, but they are also offered as guided exercises on the included audio CD. For example, the first tool is "Mindfulness with Detached Observation," and the audio track for this skill takes the listener through a guided mindfulness exercise. Similarly, for Tool #5, "Imaginary Support Circle," the CD provides guided imagery for creating this. Note that most of the tools in this section do require users to "imagine…" or "envision…"; those who find visualization exercises more difficult may struggle with these techniques.
The final chapters of the workbook center around the "P" in STOP, or putting the tools in practice. The authors do this by describing how to adapt the tools to deal with different types of emotions (such as worry, panic, physical discomfort or distress, fear of abandonment/loneliness, hopelessness, frustration, and explosive anger) as well as emotional issues that arise in relationships (e.g., feeling abandoned, betrayed, controlled, criticized, judged/shamed, misunderstood, lack of empathy, resentment, defeated/hopeless). Again, they incorporate various worksheets and self-assessment tools, but they also offer a "Suggested Tool Set" for each condition, providing recommendations of four tools to try. For Panic, the tool set is as follows: "Tool 1, Mindfulness with Detached Observation -- Tool 4, Heavy Hands, Heavy Legs -- Tool 9, Positive Future-Focusing -- Tool 12, Self-Statements."
Obviously, there is a wealth of information in this book, and the motivated reader is likely to find it to be beneficial. Yet those who are in fact prone to emotional flooding may find themselves easily overwhelmed by the requirement to complete repeated worksheets, assessments, and other information, never fully deriving full value of this workbook. The CD is helpful, although it would have been much more user-friendly had the workbook included a simple list of track titles along with their lengths. In summary, this is a worthwhile manual of helpful techniques for anyone willing to take the time to access them.
© 2016 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.