Understanding Emotion Regulation: A Deep Dive into the DERS Screening Tool

Illy Dinette | Oct 22, 2023 | 4 min read

Guest Post by Illy Dinette, Graduate Student at Montana State University’s Counselor Education Program and Intern at Community Health Partners in Bozeman, Montana.


Emotion regulation is a critical aspect of mental health that affects individuals across various diagnoses, including neurodiversity, mood disorders, and personality disorders. One of the most reliable tools for assessing emotion regulation is the Difficulty in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS). This article aims to provide an in-depth look at the DERS, its psychometric properties, and its practical applications.

What is the DERS?

The Difficulty in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) is a 36-item self-report instrument designed to measure challenges in emotion regulation. It focuses on six key areas:

  • Nonacceptance of emotional responses
  • Difficulty engaging in goal-directed behavior
  • Impulse control challenges
  • Lack of emotional awareness
  • Access to emotion regulation strategies
  • Emotional clarity

The DERS is particularly useful for identifying emotion regulation strategies in clients with various mental health conditions, including neurodiversity diagnoses, mood disorders, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.

Psychometric Strengths

Research has consistently shown that the DERS is a reliable and valid tool for assessing emotion regulation. It has demonstrated strong construct validity, test-retest reliability, and internal consistency. These psychometric properties make the DERS a robust tool for use across different demographic groups and mental health presentations.

Scoring and Interpretation

The DERS uses a scale ranging from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always), with higher scores indicating greater difficulty in emotion regulation. The scores are presented as a total score and also broken down into the six subscales. Interestingly, higher scores can also indicate better outcomes for treatment, as emotion regulation can be taught and processed in a therapeutic setting.

Strengths and Limitations

While the DERS is a robust tool, it's worth noting that some studies have questioned the validity of the "Lack of Emotional Awareness" subscale. However, the overall psychometric properties of the DERS remain strong, making it a reliable tool for assessing emotion regulation challenges.

Practical Applications

Implementing the DERS in practice can provide critical insights into a client’s emotional tolerance and regulation capabilities. This information can inform treatment plans and interventions tailored to the emotional capacity of the client. It can also be beneficial for further screenings related to neurodiversity, trauma, and alexithymia.


The DERS is a powerful tool for assessing emotion regulation, offering both clinicians and clients valuable insights into emotional challenges and strategies for improvement. Its strong psychometric properties make it a reliable choice for diverse populations and various mental health conditions.


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