Beliefs about Emotional Expression
An essential aspect of effective counseling is the ability to understand clients’ emotions. There are times that clients may experience difficulty openly discussing their feelings during counseling sessions due to strong negative beliefs about emotional expression. Spokas, Luterek, and Heimberg (2009) found that socially anxious individuals tend to believe that emotional expression is a sign of weakness and suppress their emotions to maintain control of their feelings. The goal of this study was to identify themes regarding beliefs about emotional expression to help counselors address any strong beliefs that may interfere with the counseling process. In this qualitative study, we asked 562 college students to write down their beliefs about emotional expression. A total of 1686 statements were analyzed using content analysis, and seven themes were found. Results showed that while some participants held beliefs that emotional expression is normal, others expressed beliefs that emotional expression should be contingent on certain aspects such as time, situation, or gender. Furthermore, other participants held negative beliefs that emotional expression leads to feeling vulnerable. The results of this study could help future research construct measures of emotional expression. Counseling implications include providing college counselors a basis for clients’ beliefs on emotional expression.