Emotion focused therapy (EFT) in its most simplistic form is a type of therapy that is focused on emotions. It is sometimes called “Process Experiential Therapy”. The core tenet of EFT is that our emotions are the key in helping us understand what is important to us in the world. It affects the way we think, what we do, and how we remember events.
In context of psychotherapy, EFT runs on the premise that most of the distress, discomfort or difficulties we experience would have painful emotions at the core of it. Hence, EFT focuses on working with these emotions. It seeks to access and understand it, cope with it and ultimately transform it into something better that will allow us to relieve the distress. EFT seeks to work closely with emotions to help achieve positive changes.
EFT has been shown to be effective for a range of disorders, including (but not limited to) depression, anxiety and behavioural difficulties (such as addiction). In addition, EFT is also useful across a range of formats, including individual work, couples work and family work.
How does it work?
EFT is known as a ‘person centred’ approach. A therapist utilising EFT will seek to accurately understand the client’s emotions and its impact on their lives, then seek to guide the client in transforming that emotion to something that will alleviate suffering. The EFT process is also ‘experiential’ – a vital component in the therapy is to help you access and feel your emotions in session.
There are 2 main process to EFT – relationship building, and task engagement.
The therapeutic relationship is vital to the success of EFT. This relationship is built gradually during and over sessions. Your therapist will seek to understand you. The aim is to grow and nurture a safe and productive relationship where you, as the client, feel both safe and understood by your therapist. It will give you the freedom and security to be vulnerable in your emotions, and to be able to express often raw and painful emotions and experiences to your therapist.
During the recounting of experiences and emotions, your therapist may direct you to engage in a task. This task is often ‘marker guided’, which means that we have noticed something during the session that we would like to target. This is often to facilitate recognition, understanding, and transformation of emotions.
Some of the tasks may seem a little confusing at first, but your therapist should briefly explain the task and obtain verbal consent before proceeding. It is important to discuss any hesitations you have with the therapist.
What should I expect?
In a ‘standard’ EFT session, the relationship building is always happening, and always in focus. It is the backbone to the process. The task engagement, however, usually takes up approximately half the time of the session.
How the session look like depends a lot on the presenting issue, how ‘in tuned’ with your emotions you are, and where your relationship with your therapist is. Generally, it starts off with a set-up. It could be a debrief from the previous week’s session, or a discussion of something that has happened (either recently, or historically). Usually, sometime during the recount, your therapist may notice a ‘marker’ and suggest a task.
The session may focus on one task, or a few, depending on what is being brought up. During tasks, it is common to feel emotional. After the task is completed, there is usually some time for a brief discussion, where you and your therapist discuss the task and the meaning it may have on you. This is largely dependent on the type of tasks you were engaged in.
Afterwards, it is sometimes common to feel ‘out of sorts’ or ‘uncomfortable in your own skin’ for a while – usually a few hours to a day, as you assimilate your new understanding and/or experiences into your everyday life. If this presents an issue for you (e.g., being distracted at school/work), it is important for you to discuss this with your therapist to mitigate the effects (for example, by having sessions on days off, or after work).
EFT is an empirically supported treatment, which means that it has undergone vigorous testing to ensure that it is helpful and that it ‘works.’ However, as with any therapy format, this may or may not work for you as an individual.
If you feel that you would like to give EFT a try, please discuss with your treating psychologist, or give us a call on 6381 0071 if you are not currently under the care of a psychologist.