Emotion Regulation Training for Adolescents With Major Depression: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial

Carolin Zsigo, Lisa Feldmann, Frans Oort, Charlotte Piechaczek, Jürgen Bartling, Martin Schulte-Rüther, Christian Wachinger, Gerd Schulte-Körne, Ellen Greimel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Difficulties in emotion regulation (ER) are thought to contribute to the development and maintenance of major depression (MD) in adolescents. In healthy adults, a task-based training of ER has previously proven effective to reduce stress, but no such studies are available for MD. It is also unclear whether findings can be generalized onto adolescent populations. The final sample consisted of n = 70 adolescents with MD, who were randomized to a task-based ER training (n = 36) or a control training (n = 34). Across four sessions, the ER group was trained to downregulate negative affect to negative images via reappraisal, while the control group was instructed to attend the images. Rumination, stress-, and affect-related measures were assessed as primary outcomes, behavioral and neurophysiological responses (late positive potential, LPP), as secondary outcomes. The trial was preregistered at clinicaltrials.gov (NCT03957850). While there was no significant differential effect of the ER training on primary outcomes, we found small to moderate effects on rumination in the ER group, but not the control group. During reappraisal (compared to attend), the ER group showed an unexpected increase of the LPP during the first, but not during later training sessions. Although replication in large, multicenter trials is needed, our findings on effect sizes suggest that ER training might be promising to decrease rumination in adolescent MD. The LPP increase at the first session may represent cognitive effort, which was successfully reduced over the sessions. Future studies should research whether training effects transfer to daily life and are durable over a longer time period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-991
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - 7 Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescents
  • emotion regulation
  • major depression
  • randomized controlled trial
  • training


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