Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) is a scientifically supported therapeutic approach that focuses on emotions and experiencing. It is based on the results of 40 years of intensive research and practice by various working groups around Prof. Leslie Greenberg in Toronto, Canada.

Emotion-Focused Therapy grew out of a desire to understand how change happens in psychotherapy. The analysis and study of countless therapy sessions and sequences by Prof. Leslie S. Greenberg's research group at York University in Toronto, Canada, showed that clients change when their emotions change. Changing emotions with emotions is the goal and focus of Emotion-Focused Therapy.

Difficulties in emotional processing provide the breeding ground for the development and maintenance of mental disorders. The four emotional processing difficulties are:

  1. Blocked or disowned emotions, lack of access to them, or lack of ability to consciously experience them.
  2. Difficulty in emotion regulation, i.e., experiencing too intense painful emotions (emotional under-regulation) or lack of access to emotions (emotional over-regulation).
  3. Experiencing recurrent painful "maladaptive" emotions. The repeated experience of old and painful emotions (e.g., feeling alone, not having enough, not being safe) that have their origins in negative learning experiences in the past.
  4. Inability to embed one's experience in a coherent narrative. One's emotional states are not understood and cannot be embedded in a coherent narrative of the self (story we tell us about ourselves).

Emotion-Focused Therapy has its roots in a humanistic tradition. It integrates relational principles from person-centered therapy according to Carl Rogers and combines them with emotion-activating interventions from Gestalt therapy according to Fritz Perls. In a warm and safe therapeutic setting, painful emotions are made accessible, for them to be processed and changed by adaptive (healthy) emotions.

Emotion-Focused Therapy is a transdiagnostic therapeutic method that can be used to treat all psychological problems and difficulties. Numerous empirical studies have shown that it is very effective and that the benefits last for several years after therapy.

Empirical evidence is available for the following disorders and settings:

  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorders
  • Social phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Complex trauma sequelae
  • Emotion Focused Couples Therapy (EFT-C) for partnership problems
  • Emotion-focused skills training (EFST-P) for parents of affected children and adolescents
  • Emotion-focused therapy for children and adolescents (EFT-Y)
  • Emotion Focused Group Therapy