Emotion-centered therapy: what it is and what problems it applies to

The affective and emotional sphere is probably one of the most important when considering our level of well-being.

How we feel and how we react to situations and to the people around us affect the way we view reality (and also ourselves, others and the world itself) and our behavior. But it’s not always easy to deal with and deal with our emotions and the way we structure them and relate them to events.

Sometimes serious conflicts can arise and require the use of a type of therapy focused on these factors. Although there are a variety of therapies that work on the emotional sphere, there is one that works very specifically on them: emotion-focused therapy.

    Emotion-centered therapy: what is it?

    It is called emotion-centered therapy or emotion-centered therapy to a type of therapy or psychological treatment which, as the name suggests, is characterized by work specifically on the emotional treatment of situations, Observe emotion as an adaptive reaction that allows survival and reaction to the environment while making us see our needs.

    The therapy itself is deeply experiential, as the presence of changes largely depends on exposure to situations that generate emotions, and this appearance is sought after in order to introduce changes in the patterns we use to deal with them. situations. Moreover, this theory is largely based on the humanistic paradigm and client-centered therapy, seeking the development and optimization of the patient’s potential. In fact, at its origin, therapy focused on emotions it was called Greenberg Experiential Therapy.

    The professional must adopt an empathetic and collaborative attitude, always accepting the reactions, emotions and motivations of the client or patient and trying to help detect emotions, focus and develop the subject’s autonomy, the making it responsible for itself.

    Emotion-centered therapy views emotion as the emergence of physiological changes resulting from the capture, interpretation and processing of external or internal information and our prior learnings. According to experience, we generate a series of unconscious emotional patterns that lead us to a concrete way of reacting or feeling the situations, being these patterns the one that raises at work during therapy.

    The goal of this therapy is to help patients identify, experience without blocking, assign meaning, communicate and adaptively manage their emotions. In short, manage your emotional sphere effectively and thus achieve a good capacity to adapt to the environment. This is very useful in various situations, such as for example facing relationship problems or after the presence of adverse or traumatic experiences.

      Main mechanisms of change

      Emotion-centered therapy aims to alter emotional patterns, in the way we capture, process and express our own emotionality. For this it is necessary to activate a series of mechanisms, highlighting the following elements.

      1. Awareness

      This is a factor that may seem logical and simple, but it is decisive and forms the basis for power. introduce a change in emotional patterns. Becoming aware or being able to distinguish, identify and name one’s own emotions is the most basic and fundamental step.

      2. Emotional expression

      Once you identify your own emotion, you will need to know it and be able to express it, especially when we are talking about negative emotions. It’s more of a confrontation of emotion, in fact live it without introducing an avoidance that protects us from it.

      3. Emotional regulation

      In addition to identifying and experiencing them, another of the mechanisms needed to bring about changes is to regulate emotions. Regular does not mean not feeling it or repressing it, But to be able to slow them down or adapt them to the situation in which we find ourselves.

      4. Reflection

      Although previously in the processing of emotion there were cognitive aspects and components, another mechanism should be mentioned the ability to operate with information and make sense of the experience.

      5. Transformation

      The last of the great mechanisms necessary for changing emotions is transformation, i.e. successfully modify the emotional experience to make it adaptive. An example might be looking for experiences that generate emotional responses incompatible with the initial emotion.

      Situations in which it generally applies

      Emotion-centered therapy is often used in specific situations and is particularly often related to the treatment of relationship problems, although it can be applied to a large number of problems.

      1. Couple therapy

      One of the main contexts in which emotion-focused therapy is typically applied is in the couple’s world. And it has been shown that this type of therapy can help work on the emotional conflicts present in each of its members and on the relationship in itself.

      And it is that this modality makes it possible to work on aspects like inclination (not in vain it is based in part on the theory of inclination) and to identify, express and share his emotions and emotional needs. In this way, this type of work can improve the situation of each component of the couple and improve existing communication, strengthening the existing bond.

      2. Family disputes

      Similar to the above, emotion-focused therapy may become applicable in the family context, so that emotional patterns can be reworked and communicated effectively.

        3. Socialization problems

        People with socialization issues stemming from emotional issues can benefit from this type of therapy, learning to transform their feelings and fears and accept them so as not to interfere with their relationships. Likewise, communication is encouraged.

        4. Eating disorders

        Emotion-centered therapy has been used in the case of patients with eating disorders, due, among other things, to the strong presence of negative emotionality in relation to self-concept. It seems useful both individually and in groups, Pretend to identify, naturalize and modify the emotions that feed the food problem.

        Post-traumatic stress disorder

        Emotionally focused therapy may be helpful in working the emotional domain in post-traumatic stress disorder. Sexual abuse, school bullying, gender-based or domestic violence are examples of situations in which it could be applied.


        Depressive disorders are one of the main and most common characteristics the existence of emotions such as sadness or hopelessness. Working on the processing of emotions and situations and on the variation of patterns (both cognitive and emotional) will help the subject to show an improvement in his situation.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Brennan, M .; Emmerling, M. and Welton, J. (2015). Emotionally Focused Group Therapy: Addressing Self-Criticism in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. Counseling and Psychotherapy Research, 15 (1), 67-75.
        • Elliot, R .; Watson, JC; Goldman, Rh.N. And Greenberg, LS (2004). Learn emotion-focused therapy. The center of the experiential change process. American Psychological Association. Washington DC
        • Greenberg, LS; Elliott, R. and Pos, A. (2010). Therapy emotion-focused: an overview.
        • Greenberg, L. and Watson, J. (2006). Emotionally focused therapy for depression. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
        • Hervás, G. (2011). Psychopathology of emotional regulation: the role of emotional deficits in clinical disorders. Behavioral Psychology, 19 (2): 347-372.

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