What is Emotion Focused Therapy?
On the one hand, it's what is says it is - a therapy focused on emotions, but in the other hand - that doesn't explain what actually happens in a therapy session. To quote two of my favourite teachers (*Robert Elliott and Les Greenberg), they describe it as:
"...focused on emotion, not emotion as an abstract entity, but emotions in all their concrete, embodied, messy confusion, incuding the range of our immediate, moment-to-moment emotions: the small subtle ones as well as the big, powerful ones. Emotions fill our lives and give them meaning, flavour and direction. Without emotions, we strongly believe, life would be colourless, empty and without meaning."
What we humans learn to do, over time, and oftentimes to keep ourselves safe, is that we suppress our unpleasant emotions from others but also from ourselves. We find ways to distract from them, and not allow ourselves to feel them. Depending how we do this, we can end up feeling stuck, numb, down, depressed or our emotions can burst out and we feel overwhelmed to the point of being out of control. In some ways, Emotion Focused Therapy is an experiential coaching process, where we (you and I) collaborate to work on areas of your emotional processes where you feel stuck/numb/overwhelmed, to find ways of working THROUGH emotions rather than bypassing them or being railroaded (overwhelmed) by them. At all times in a therapy session, you, the client is in charge of what we work on. I will suggest things you might want to work on, but I have a deep belief that you know what's right for you at any given time. You could look upon this as bringing your emotional house into order. I might suggest there's some work we could do in the livingroom, but you might be feeling much more charged about working in the kitchen. We explore where you want to explore.
For more information, there's a short video by Les Greenberg where he gives a great summary of working with emotions:
*Elliott & Greenberg: Emotion-Focused Counselling in Action, Sage Publications Ltd, 2021
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Vicki Allen. Counsellor & Psychotherapist. MBACP