Purpose: Understanding how difficulties in emotion regulation can be related to metacognitive beliefs during early abstinence, identifying which factors are associated with craving and relapse risk may be useful in residential rehabilitation treatment of alcohol addiction.
Methods: Sixty-five patients underwent a 28-day rehabilitation program for alcohol addiction. They underwent a brief semi-structured interview at admission and completed a battery of five self-report questionnaires between days 7 and 10 of alcohol abstinence (T0) and 3 days prior to discharge (T1).
Results: After rehabilitation program, all symptoms of psychological distress decreased. We found a significant improvement in all emotional, cognitive and metacognitive scales except for "Cognitive harm" (NAM), "Awareness" (DERS) and a small effect size (low statistical power) for "Emotional clarity" (DERS). Compared to those still abstinent at 1 month from discharge, we found more difficulties in "Emotional clarity" in those who had an early relapse. Difficulties in "Emotional clarity" were observed also in patients with a high level of craving at discharge.
Conclusion: Significant differences were observed between the groups "abstinence vs non-abstinence" at 1 month from discharge concerning difficulties in emotion regulation. In particular, we found difficulty in the awareness and understanding of emotion, precisely to identify correctly the emotions. The "Emotional Clarity" seems to be the emotional difficulty that characterized also the group with a high level of craving at discharge and the individuals with early relapse, suggesting the importance of this function as a preliminary factor in emotion regulation.