Emotion Focused Therapy is a modern and integrative approach to psychotherapy. It is grounded in the Humanistic and Gestalt models of therapeutic practice. It can be highly effective for treating clients who have experienced addiction, trauma or incarceration.
This form of therapy is best suited for those who have unresolved negative feelings. Often, the client will believe that they didn’t get a chance to properly express how they felt about a distressing experience in their past such as bullying, abuse or neglect. This lack of closure and resolution will continue to cause problems in their life, even though the harm itself may be long behind them.
In sessions, the therapist first works with the client to address their secondary traits, the negative feelings or behaviours they are experiencing that they would like to change. Working backwards from here, we can identify the ‘primary maladaptive trait’, the underlying core belief that informs the surface-level issues.
These primary traits are typically quite difficult to explain or understand with words alone, so the client is encouraged to find whatever form of expression helps them to identify how they feel. This element of the approach is very diverse and could take the form of art, poetry or staging a pretend conversation with a perpetrator of formative trauma. These options give the client the ability to explore their feelings in a safe, empowering and non-judgemental environment.
Once the maladaptive trait has been fully addressed and confronted, positive growth work is implemented to find and develop a replacement adaptive trait. In some cases, the secondary behaviour that once manifested in negative ways can be reworked to be a tool for growth. Anger, for example, could be reframed as determination or a motivation to make the world better.
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