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What is Emotion Focused Therapy?

Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) has evolved in recent years to have a significant impact on the field of psychotherapy.  Its increasing popularity and the growing support for its efficacy have made EFT an important approach to psychotherapy treatment. Emotion Focused Therapy is an empirically-supported humanistic treatment that views emotions as centrally important in human functioning and therapeutic change. EFT involves a therapeutic style that combines both following and guiding the client’s experiential process, emphasizing the importance of both relationship and intervention skills. It views emotion as the fundamental datum of human experience while recognizing the importance of meaning making, and views emotion and cognition as inextricably intertwined.

Principles of Change

Emotions fundamentally tell us what is important to us in a situation and thus act as a guide to what we need or want. Although emotions are basically adaptive, they can become problematic for a variety of reasons: past traumas, emotion avoidance and problems in emotion regulation.

In order for change to happen, client needs to work through a sequence of emotion, from secondary through maladaptive to adaptive emotions, and must also cognitively orient to that experience, explore it, reflect on it and make sense of it. 

We need to arrive at a place before we can leave it.
We have to feel a feeling in order to change it.

Emotions are connected to our most essential needs. They rapidly alert us to situations important to our well-being. They also prepare and guide us to take action towards meeting our needs. Individuals and couples benefit from therapy with the help of an empathically attuned relationship with their therapist, who seeks to help them to better identify, experience, explore, make sense of, transform, and more flexibly manage their emotions.

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.

As a result, persons receiving EFT treatment become stronger and are more skillful in accessing the important information and meanings about themselves and their world that emotions contain, and become more skillful in using that information to live vitally and adaptively.

How can feeling bad lead to feeling good?

EFT & Mental Health
We need to arrive at a place before we can leave it.
We have to feel a feeling in order to change it.
___  Les  Greenberg  ___

6 principles for working with emotions

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