About EFT

How do you change emotions?
Dr. Leslie Greenberg

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What Is Emotion Focused Therapy?

Emotion Focused Therapy is an empirically-supported, evidence based psychotherapy approach that views emotions as centrally important in human functioning and therapeutic change. EFT was initially developed by Dr Leslie Greenberg, in collaboration with Dr. Robert Elliott and Dr. Laura Rice (for individual therapy) and Dr. Sue Johnson (for couples’ therapy). An emotion focused approach is based on methods designed to help people accept, express, regulate, make sense of and transform emotions and develop much deeper empathy as a path to health and well-being in individuals and couples. 

Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) has evolved in recent years to have a significant impact on the field of psychotherapy. Emotion Focused Therapy is based on a 30+ year program of psychotherapy research by Greenberg, Elliott, Rice Watson Goldman and others. EFT provided a distinctive perspective on emotion as a source of meaning, direction, and growth.  Its increasing popularity and the growing research support for its efficacy with a wide variety of problems have made EFT an important approach to psychotherapy treatment.

Emotion Focused Therapy 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.

EFT proposes that emotions themselves have an innately adaptive potential that if activated can help clients change problematic emotional states or unwanted self experiences. This view of emotion is based on the view, now gaining ample empirical support, that emotion at its core is an innate and adaptive system that has evolved to help us survive and thrive. 

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. .


Enabling tranformative change: 

In Emotion Focused Therapy we propose changing emotion with emotion as a central principle of emotional change and suggest that one of the best ways to transform amygdala-based maladaptive fear, sadness and shame is with another adaptive emotion. 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. 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 adaptive.

Emotion Focused Therapy is Effective in Treatment of:

Emotion Focused Therapy is basically suitable for all problems in which emotional dysfunctions are the main focus.

This can be the difficulty  experiencing emotions, regulating emotions, dealing with emotions or tolerating them.

Dysfunctions can also arise from experiencing maladaptive (not helpful) emotions such as shame, guilt inadequacy, self-denial, self-insecurity, mistrust, fear, anger, impotence, jealousy, helplessness, or hopelessness.

EFT has been effective in treatment of the following disorders/difficulties:

  • depression
  • anxiety disorders (panic, agoraphobia, constraints)
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • eating disorders
  • borderline personality disorder
  • difficulties in the partnership / couples therapy
  • self-uncertainty or low self-esteem

Resources for further readings

Leslie S. Greenberg, Goldman, Rhonda, (2019)
Clinical Handbook of Emotion-Focused Therapy, Washington: APA Books

Leslie S. Greenberg, (2016)
Emotion-Focused Therapy, Theories of Psychotherapy Series: APA Books

Leslie S. Greenberg, PhD., 2002 or 2015
Emotion-focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings

Jeanne C. Watson and Leslie S. Greenberg (2017)
Emotion-Focused Therapy for Generalized Anxiety

Goldman, R.N. & Greenberg, L.S. (2014).  
Case Formulation in Emotion-Focused Therapy: Co-creating Clinical Maps for Change, Washington: APA Books

Paivio, Sandra & Pascual-Leone, Antonio (2010)
EFT for Complex Trauma: An Integrative Approach, Washington DC., APA Books.

Greenberg, L. S.& Goldman, R. N. (2008). 
Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: The Dynamics of Emotion, Love, and Power, Washington: APA Books.

Watson, J. C., Goldman, R. N., & Greenberg, L. S. (2007). 
Case-studies in the experiential treatment of depression: 
A comparison of good and bad outcome. Washington: APA Books.

Greenberg, L. S. & Watson, J. C. (2005). 
EFT for Depression.  Washington: APA Books.

Elliott, R., Watson, J. C., Greenberg, L. & Goldman, R. (2003).  
Learning emotion focused psychotherapy: The process-experiential approach to change. Washington: APA Books.

Greenberg, L. S. & Paivio, Sandra C. (2003)
Working with Emotions in Psychotherapy.

New York: Guilford Press.

Watson, J. C., Goldman, R. & Warner, M. S. (Eds.). (2002). 
Client-centered and experiential psychotherapy in the 21st century: Advances in theory, research and practice. Ross on Wye:  PCCS Books.

Greenberg, L. S., Watson, J. C. & Lietaer, G. (Eds.). (1998). 
Handbook of experiential psychotherapy.  New York:  Guilford Press.

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