What is Emotion Focused Therapy?

Emotion-focused Therapy (EFT) is a unique empirically-based approach, based on methods designed to help people accept, express, regulate, make sense of and transform emotion. Recent years have seen a growth of EFT in individual and couples therapy, both because of its status as an evidence-based treatment, and also because the EFT approach focuses on the development of emotional intelligence and on the importance of secure relationships. Because of these emphases, EFT offers an alternative to more technically-oriented evidence-based treatments.

Most fundamentally, emotions tell us what is important to us in a situation and thus act as a guide to what we need or want.  This, in turn, helps us to figure out what actions are appropriate.  Emotions are basically adaptive and guide attachment as well as the tendency toward growth. EFT focuses on helping people become aware of and express their emotions, learn to tolerate and regulate them, reflect on them to make sense of them and transform them. 

 

Learning about emotions is not enough; instead, what is needed is for clients to experience those emotions as they arise in the safety of the therapy session, where they can discover for themselves the value of greater awareness and more flexible management of emotions. Emotion-focused therapy systematically but flexibly helps clients become aware of and make productive use of their emotions.

EFT works on the basic principle that to change, people cannot leave a place until they have arrived. Clients therefore need to reclaim disowned experience before they can be changed by or change that experience. In this process, it is not that people simply discover things they did notknow but rather that they become aware of and experience aspects of themselves they have not consciously felt or may have previously disclaimed, dismissed, or pushed away.

Based on emotion, attachment, and growth theory, EFT helps people identify which of their emotions they can trust and rely on as adaptive guides and which of their emotions are residues of painful memories that have become maladaptive to the person's current context and need to be changed. With the help of the therapist's empathic understanding and the use of experiential methods, clients learn how to make healthy contact with feelings, memories, thoughts, and physical sensations that have been ignored or feared and avoided. By accessing adaptive emotions such as healthy grief, empowering anger, and compassion, people are able to use these as resources to transform maladaptive emotions such as fear, sadness of abandonment and shame of inadequacy that have developed from past negative learning or traumatic experiences.

About The Presenter

Leslie Greenberg, Ph.D. is Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario. He is the Director of the York University Psychotherapy Research Clinic is the developer of Emotion-focused therapy. He has authored the major texts on Emotion-focused approaches to treatment. He is the senior author on the original texts on Emotion-focused approaches to treatment of individuals and couples such as Facilitating Emotional Change (1993) and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (1988).

More recent books include Emotion-focused therapy: Coaching Clients to work through their Feelings (2002), Emotion-focused therapy of Depression (2006) and Emotion-focused Couple therapy: The Dynamics of Emotion, Love and Power (2008). His newest book is Theory of Emotion-Focused therapy (2011).

Dr. Greenberg has published extensively on research on the process of change. He received the 2004 Distinguished Research Career award of the Society for Psychotherapy Research: An International interdisciplinary society. He is a founding member of the Society of the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) and a past President of the Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR). He has been awarded the Canadian Council of Professional Psychology Program Award for Excellence in Professional Training and the Canadian Psychological Association Professional Award for distinguished contributions to Psychology as a profession as well as the Carl Rogers award of the American Psychology Association’s Society for Humanistic Psychology.

 

He is recipient of the APA award for Distinguished Professional Contribution to Applied Research. He is on the editorial board of many psychotherapy journals, including the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the Journal of Psychotherapy Integration and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. He conducts a private practice for individuals and couples and trains people in Emotion–focused approaches.

Dr. Greenberg uses a combination of lectures, videotape demonstrations and focused question & answer periods to maximize skill acquisition. His teaching is practical and specific. Workshop participants leave with techniques they can readily integrate into their everyday practices. Dr. Greenberg's workshops are renowned for their atmosphere of authenticity and warmth.

 

Comments on Greenberg’s Work

“There is no doubt that Greenberg is both a pioneer and the
field’s premier investigator in the important work of applying the
basic research on emotions to the process of psychotherapy… a
fabulous compendium of strategies for working with emotions.”

—Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D

“Immensely valuable [for] psychotherapists of all persuasions…
theoretically innovative and clinically practical.”

—Michael J. Mahoney, Ph.D.

“Most psychotherapists and theories of psychotherapy
recognize, in one way or another, the centrality of emotion in
both psychopathology and therapeutic change. [Dr.
Greenberg’s] ‘emotionally-focused’ therapeutic approach [is
one] that virtually all therapists will find useful.”

—Morris Eagle, Ph.D.

“Although emotion has long been recognized as playing a
significant role in the development, maintenance and change of
most clinical problems, the guidelines for working with emotions
therapeutically have always left something to be desired. Not so
with [those of] Greenberg… [his are] lucid, jargon-free… a
landmark contribution.”

— Marvin R. Goldfried, Ph.D.

“Truly outstanding work [for] every researcher and practitioner
involved with psychotherapy.”

—David H. Barlow, Ph.D.

© 2016 Family Connection Counseling

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