Emotion Focused Therapy
What is Emotion Focused Therapy?
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) is a research-based humanistic approach that considers emotions to be central to human functioning and therapeutic change.
It is an integrative approach that incorporates elements from person-centered therapy, gestalt therapy, focusing, existential and narrative therapy.
It was originally developed by Dr. Leslie Greenberg in collaboration with Dr. Robert Elliott and Dr. Laura Rice, through their systematic studies of how people change in treatment. Since then, many research studies have supported its effectiveness in a number of psychological problems.
The growing popularity of EFT and the growing research base have made it an important approach to psychotherapy.
The role of emotion
EFT is based on the view that emotion at its core is an inherent adaptive system that has evolved to help us survive and grow.
Emotions tell us what is important to us in a situation and thus are a guide to what we want or need. But while they are basically useful and beneficial, they can be problematic for many reasons. For example, the emotions we are experiencing right now may be based more on old traumas than on the situation we are facing now, we may avoid emotions and thus not have access to what we need, or we may have trouble controlling our emotions.
EFT helps us to improve the way we process our emotions enabling us to respond better to the situations we face. It helps us deal with painful emotions, reflect on them to make sense of our experiences, use them to act effectively, and transform those that are not useful to us.
How Emotion Focused Therapy Helps
Emotion Focused Therapy emphasizes both the therapeutic relationship and specific interventions. In this treatment we follow very closely the client's experiential process while at the same time we guide this process where needed.
We have to arrive a place before we can leave it.
We first need to experience an emotion in order to change it.
The therapeutic relationship is the cornerstone of EFT. This relationship provides the empathy, consistency and safety that the individual needs to process his or her emotions in order to change and grow.
With the help of the therapeutic relationship and the use of experiential methods clients learn to identify which of their emotions can be trusted and which are remnants of painful memories that no longer help and need to be changed.
As a result, the person becomes more emotionally resilient and more adept at getting the important information contained in emotions and using that information to live a more fulfilling life.
EFT is appropriate for all problems that have their basis on emotional difficulties, such as the difficulties of experiencing, controlling, managing or tolerating our emotions.
Over the years, it has been applied and researched in various populations and clinical disorders. Initial research has shown its effectiveness in depression, while more recent research shows that it is equally effective in complex trauma, social anxiety and generalized anxiety. Lately, there is growing support for its effectiveness in the field of eating disorders, while there is also research on EFT for groups and the treatment of chronic medical conditions. Many studies have also shown its effectiveness in couple therapy.
The relationship between Emotion-Focused Therapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples
Although there are a lot of similarities between Emotion Focused Therapy and the attachment-based Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples, the two approaches have taken slightly different paths.
The Model of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples was originally developed by Leslie Greenberg and Sue Johnson. In this model the functioning of the couple was seen as organized around both attachment and influence. Over time, however, Johnson began to focus exclusively on attachment theory. Greenberg, on the other hand, stayed with emotion as the primary focus and kept the term emotion-focused therapy for both individual therapy and couples work.
In 2008 Greenberg and Goldman presented an updated version of EFT for couples (EFT-C) in which they viewed affect regulation as the central force that organizes couples’ dynamics.