Background and Development

therapy session at consulting rooms

Dr Roger Baker explaining panic attack

In 1977, when working as a Clinical Research Psychologist at the Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen on a project designed to develop a new cognitive therapy for panic attack sufferers, Roger Baker noted that patients seemed to have difficulties in distinguishing emotions, with a tendency to suppress and control their emotional life. What intrigued him was patients’ failure to link their first panic attack with seriously stressful life events that had preceded the attack.

This inspired a research study which investigated whether panic sufferers demonstrate any particular emotional processing style. Significant suppression of emotional experience and problems labelling emotions were found (Baker, Holloway, Thomas, Thomas and Owens 2004).  An accidental offshoot of the research was that it highlighted the need for a good psychometric scale that was able to assess the different aspects of emotional processing; a more sophisticated assessment instrument for the growing field of emotional research. His previous experience in producing an assessment scale (REHAB in psychiatric rehabilitation; Baker & Hall, 1988) helped him to appreciate the significance of sound psychometric instrument in the area of emotions.

Roger and his colleagues soon realised that emotional processing problems were not only specific to panic sufferers, but that emotional avoidance and suppression also related to other anxiety disorders and to depression too.

In collaboration with Sarah Thomas (cognitive psychologist), Mariaelisa Santonastaso (clinical and community psychologist), Eimear Corrigan (psychologist) and Peter Thomas (health care statistician) and support of many other psychologists, counsellors and physicians, the development and refinement of the Emotional processing Scale began in 2000. Research findings with the Emotional Processing Scale indicated that nearly every psychological disorder that they, or their research colleagues examined, revealed significant difficulties with emotional processing, a finding paralleled in the alexithymia literature.

Soon it became evident that it could be applied widely to health conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer survivors, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue.

As the team gained greater understanding of the scope of emotional processing they realised how fundamental the concept was.

For more detailed information on the reliability and validity of the scale follow the link to the Power Point presentation Background and development of the EPS