The Zones of Regulation
By Keelyn Ingmire & Austin Matthews, 9/2022
What is the Zones of Regulation Program?
Zones of Regulation® is a cognitive-behavioral curriculum-based intervention for children ages 4 through adulthood and can be used in a small group setting. The intervention focuses on emotional regulation using four colors denoting emotional states the child may be in and how to manage these states. The red zone describes extremely heightened states of alertness, a lack of control, and intense emotions, such as anger, elation, euphoria, terror, rage, etc. The yellow zone describes a heightened level of alertness and elevated emotions with some level of control, including emotions such as stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, nervousness, etc. Individuals in the green zone are in a calm state of alertness, with emotions such as happy, focused, content, and ready to learn. Individuals in the blue zone are in a low state of alertness and down feelings, such as sick, tired, bored, and sad (Kuypers Consulting, Inc., 2021).
Components of the Zones of Regulation
The Zones of Regulation® curriculum can be taught by anyone using the manual and consists of 18 lessons.
The goals of the Zones of Regulation® curriculum and intervention is to teach children to identify their feelings and levels of alertness, understand their feelings in context, utilize effective regulation tools, learn when and how to use these tools, problem solve positive situations, understand how their behaviors influence other’s thoughts and feelings, and move towards independent regulation (Kuypers Consulting, Inc., 2021).
In the first section of lessons, students are introduced to the zones and learn about labeling emotions, recognizing physical indicators of emotions in themselves and others, understanding expected and unexpected behaviors in different settings, and identifying triggers they may encounter throughout the day that send them toward the red zone.
The second section of lessons introduces tools, including sensory support tools (such as movement, listening to music, etc.), calming tools (such as mindfulness and deep breathing), and thinking strategies (such as identifying the size of a problem).
The final section of the Zones of Regulation® settings helps students learn how to use and apply the tools in their toolbox for each zone, including using yellow tools to prevent from building to the red zone, stopping in the moment to use tools, and rewarding the use of the tools (Kuypers, 2011).
Evidence of Zones of Regulation Effectiveness
Multiple small research studies have found slight effectiveness of the Zones of Regulation® intervention on increasing emotional self-regulation and decreasing problem behaviors, lability, and negative emotions. Adaptations of Zones of Regulation® promoted self-regulation in preschoolers (Sanger, 2020) and decreased problem behaviors in elementary students with ASD or ADHD (Quale, 2019).
Kuypers Consulting, Inc. (2021). Zones of Regulation®. Retrieved from https://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html
Kuypers, L. M. (2011). The Zones of Regulation®: A Curriculum Designed to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control. Santa Clara, CA: Social Thinking.
Quale, M. (2019). Effectiveness of components of the zones of regulation® on student behaviors (Master’s Thesis, Minot State University, 2019) (pp. 1-59). ProQuest Dissertation Publishing.
Sanger, K. (2020). Zones of regulation® for preschool students: An intensive skills training intervention model (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 2015) (pp. 7-66). ProQuest Dissertation Publishing.