AICT Staff Presentations

Dr Leahy will be presenting a Master Clinician lecturer at the NY conference of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. The topic is Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Regret

Master Clinician Seminar 7 - Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Regret

Saturday, November 19, 2022
1:30 PM – 3:30 PM EDT
Location: Majestic/Music Box, 6th Floor
Earn 2 CE Credit
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Keywords: Rumination, Cognitive Processes, Worry

Level of Familiarity: Basic to Moderate

Recommended Readings: Leahy, R. L. If Only..Finding Freedom from Regret. New York: Guilford

Leahy, R.L. (2015). Emotional Schema Therapy. New York: Guilford.

Bell, D.E. (1982). Regret in decision making under uncertainty. Operations Research, 30, 961-981.

Roese, N. J., & Summerville, A. (2005). What we regret most … and why. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin , 31, 1273–1285. doi:10.1177/0146167205274693.

Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2007). A Theory of Regret Regulation. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 17(1), 3–18.


Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D.

Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D.
American Institute for Cognitive Therapy
New York City, New York

Although regret is a central element in depression, procrastination, indecision, self-criticism, worry, rumination, and avoidance, it has received little attention in the CBT literature. In contrast, regret has been a focus in decision theory and research indicating that when people make decisions they often anticipate the possibility of postdecision regret and, therefore, attempt to minimize this experience. Regret is not always a negative process. Insufficient regret processes result in impulsive behavior and failure to learn from past decisions. During manic episodes there is underutilization of anticipatory regret. We will view regret as a self-regulatory process where too much regret or too little regret may be problematic. Although people often believe that they will more likely regret taking new action, research indicates over time there is greater regret for actions not taken. Affective forecasting-that is, overprediction of emotion following events in the future-often contributes to anticipatory regret, with predictions leading to beliefs in greater impact of events than is warranted by the facts. In addition, some decision makers have idealized beliefs about decisions, rejecting ambivalence as an inevitable part of the tradeoffs underlying decision making under uncertainty. Specific decision styles are more likely to contribute to regret, including maximization, emotional perfectionism, intolerance of uncertainty, and overvaluation of “more” information rather than relevant information. In this presentation we will examine how regret is linked to hindsight bias, maximization rather than satisfaction strategies, intolerance of uncertainty, rejection of ambivalence, refusal to accept tradeoffs, excessive information demands, and ruminative processes. Specific techniques will be elaborated to balance regret with acceptance, present utility, and flexibility to enhance more pragmatic decision processes, reverse ruminative focus on the past, and replace self-criticism with adaptive self-correction.


  • Regret is a central issue in decision making, procrastination, worry, rumination and guilt.
  • Clients may have problems in either exaggerating or minimizing regret.
  • Over the long-term there is greater regret for actions not taken than actions taken.
  • Decision styles emphasizing maximization rather than satisfaction lead to greater regret.
  • Intolerance of ambivalence and uncertainty can lead to opportunity costs due to inability to decide.
  • Emphasizing acceptance, flexibility, future utility, and relative preferences can assist clients in coping with outcomes.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of the session, the learner will be able to:

  • Identify the role of anticipatory and retrospective regret in decision making and how this impacts procrastination, risk aversion, indecision, rumination, and self-criticism.
  • Assist clients in accepting uncertainty and risk in order to make more pragmatic and effective decisions.
  • Describe how to assist clients in reducing postdecision regret, self-criticism and rumination and accept tradeoffs in making decisions while enhancing satisfaction with imperfect outcomes.
  • Distinguish between Productive and Unproductive Regret.
  • Relate decision style of maximizing, inflexible expectations, and perfectionism to vulnerability to regret.
  • Long-term Goal: Use concepts of anticipatory and retrospective regret in helping clients make better informed decisions.
  • Long-term Goal: Help clients reduce maximization beliefs both in making decisions and in coping with outcomes.
Cognitive Therapy
Substance Abuse Miniseries by
Dr. Graham Reynolds