What is emotion focused therapy (EFT)?

EFT assumes that emotions can be a source of healing. Unlike most other therapies, EFT works with specific emotions to increase adaptation.

Which books provide the best synopses of EFT?

The classic texts on individual EFT are Facilitating Emotional Change (Greenberg, Rice & Elliott, 1996), which is organized by technique; and Working with Emotion (Greenberg & Paivio, 1997), which is organized by emotion. For couples EFT, the seminal text is Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples, authored by Dr. Greenberg and Susan Johnson (1988). The Practice of Emotionally Focused Marital Therapy: Creating Connection (Johnson, 1996) provides a more recent synopsis.

How is EFT different from other therapies?

Most psychotherapies are best regarded as forms of "emotion suppression therapy" (EST). In contrast, "emotion focused therapy" (EFT) seeks to resolve unpleasant emotions by working with them. EFT regards many unpleasant emotions as sources of useful information.

  1. EFT adds to cognitive therapy a focus on the constructive aspects of specific emotions.

  2. EFT adds to psychoanalytic therapies a focus on the here & now, on "how" problems are produced (rather than just "why").

  3. EFT adds to interpersonal psychotherapy a focus on the self and the importance of past interpersonal relations.

What are the indications for EFT?

EFT is indicated for those conditions in which there is a maladaptive over-control of emotions, whether those emotions be "positive" (e.g., joy) or "negative" (e.g., anger, sadness, fear or shame).

What are the contraindications for EFT?

EFT is generally contraindicated in the short term for those conditions in which there is an under-control of emotion; e.g., panic disorder and impulse disorders. Such conditions are generally best treated with "emotion suppression therapies" (ESTís) like cognitive therapy, which provide effective short-term coping skills. However, EFT is often indicated as a second stage of treatment.

How many sessions does EFT require?

The question of numbers of sessions can only be answered in collaboration with your therapist. But as a guide, the research studies at York Psychotherapy Research Clinic require 16-20 weeks for the treatment of depression, resulting in 75% success rates.

What is the research behind EFT?

EFT has been proven effective for individuals suffering from moderate depression, the effects of childhood deprivation or abuse, and a variety of general "problems of living", including interpersonal problems (Greenberg & Watson, 1998; Paivio & Greenberg,1995; Greenberg, Elliott & Lietaer, 1995). EFT also has demonstrated effectiveness for distressed couples (Johnson & Greenberg, 1985; Goldman & Greenberg, 1992; Johnson, Hunsley, Schindler & Greenberg 1999).

In addition, psychotherapy process research has shown that the "depth of emotional processing" (which EFT emphasizes) correlates strongly with lasting therapeutic outcome.