Emotion Focused Therapy, commonly known as EFT, has roots in systematic theory, humanistic-experiential approach, and attachment theory (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). With EFT, emotions are viewed as a vital piece of the puzzle, that is ourselves. Our emotions have the potential to be adaptive and maladaptive, based on previous experiences (Seligman& Reichenberg, 2010).
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Emotion Focused Therapy aligns with the therapeutic conditions outlined by Carl Rogers. Counselors work to incorporate congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy into their work. These conditions allow us to create a safe environment for the therapeutic relationship to grow. EFT also includes the directiveness of Gestalt Therapy that can guide the client in session (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010).
With Emotion Focused Therapy, Counselors help clients access, identify, and regulate their emotions to improve their overall quality of life. This is done by bringing both adaptive and maladaptive emotions into the counseling sessions so that they can be understood and then altered into new emotions that better reflect the client’s self-narrative (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). This allows clients to have more self-awareness, increase resiliency and allows them to become more validating of their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010).
EFT can be broken down into three steps, with nine tasks between them (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). Phase one would be de-escalation which includes steps 1-4(Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). The change in interactional positions is the second phase which entails steps 5-7(Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). And the final phase is consolidation and integration which includes steps 8 and 9 (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). Keep reading to learn 10 Emotionally-Focused Therapy Exercises & Activities to do with your Clients
Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit from EFT
Emotion Focused Therapy is an empirically supported therapeutic approach that can be applied to various presenting concerns clients experience. Common concerns addressed with Emotion Focused Therapy include depression, substance abuse, relationship discord and concerns, and trauma-related concerns in various populations (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010). EFT can also be used for individuals who have some physical illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer (Greenman, P.S.& Johnson, S.M., 2022).
Emotionally-Focused Therapy Activities to do with Clients
Emotion Focused Therapy can be a helpful therapeutic approach to use for many clients. EFT exercises can be used to explore changes that can help our clients reach their goals of improving their connection with others. This can include learning to regulate emotions in a healthy manner, improving communication patterns, and exploring current patterns within their relationships.
Examples of Emotionally-Focused Therapy exercises that can be used in therapeutic sessions include:
- EFT exercises can act as an educational tool to help clients understand how their experiences are connected to their emotions. TherapyByPro offers an Identifying Emotional Triggers Worksheet that can help clients identify triggers that they can experience in various areas of their life, such as people, places, and things. You can then work with your client to develop a plan of how they can cope with their top 5 emotional triggers. After completing this worksheet, you can encourage your client to keep it for reference outside of sessions. Allow for time to check in during later sessions to explore the effectiveness of their ability to cope with the trigger, and discuss any improvements that can be made.
- Emotion Focused Counseling includes several interventions that counselors can utilize. The interventions used during the session resemble characteristics outlined by Carol Rodgers including asking evocative questions, reflective listening, reframing patterns, tracking and replaying key moments, and validating your client’s experience (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W., 2010).
- TherapyByPro has developed a worksheet specifically for counselors who are working with couples. Their EFT Negative Cycle Worksheet can be used to help couples explore a negative cycle within their behaviors that have a negative impact on their relationship satisfaction. Partners will gain a better understanding of each other’s experiences and reactions, which can help them view their cycle from a different perspective. By understanding more about their relational patterns, they can work together to break the cycle by making changes to their behaviors that can act as triggers for emotional distress. Allow for time to follow up in later sessions to explore changes that they have observed since working through this worksheet and processing the impact of these changes.
- A key component of EFT is helping our clients learn to cope with distress and discomfort. A helpful EFT activity would be to spend time focusing on healthy coping skills and exploring which ones can be applied to the specific triggers and challenges that your client experiences. There are a variety of different coping skills, so it can be helpful to explore the various categories including distractions, mental strategies, physical activities, interpersonal skills, and spiritual skills. Encourage your client to practice using new coping skills outside of the session, and follow up about their ability to do so in your next session.
- A piece of improving our overall emotional health is gaining an understanding of how our emotions can impact those around us. TherapyByPro has developed an Ideal Emotion State Worksheet begins by asking your client to describe how their emotions affect those around them. They are then asked to think of a situation where their emotions got the best of them, and the impact that this had on those around them. You will then help them explore how they could have handled the situation differently if they were given an opportunity to do so. You can then assist your client while they explore what steps they need to take to get closer to their identified ideal emotional state. Allow for time to explore any changes that they have observed in their reactions since completing this worksheet.
- Similar to the Ideal Emotional State Worksheet, TherapyByPro has developed an Emotional Reaction Worksheet that explores how negative and distressing emotions impact their behaviors. Your client will be asked to walk through a recent experience with a distressing emotion and how this impacted their behavior. They will be asked to identify a healthy reaction that they could have had in that situation that could have improved the outcome. Support your client while they are working through this EFT activity by helping them if they encounter some difficulties. Check-in during later sessions to explore any changes that they have experienced regarding their reactions to distressing emotions.
- Clients who struggle with their ability to cope with their emotions may benefit from learning about meditation practices. Meditation can be a healthy and effective strategy for managing mental health distress. Spend time discussing the different forms of meditation, and allow for time to practice some meditations in session. Be mindful of clients you introduce to meditation, as some clients with trauma-related concerns may find that meditation causes them distress. Allow for time to process their experience, and encourage them to use meditation one to two times before their next session.
- Many clients who are actively engaging in therapy benefit from learning about self-compassion and self-care. Actively engaging in therapy can be challenging for many, and clients may not have the experience that they were hoping for, maybe their progress is taking a bit longer than they had initially hoped. Exploring ways of showing compassion and kindness can be beneficial and impactful for clients who are putting a lot of pressure on themselves. Spend time exploring your client’s current self-care routine, and explore how they can bring in more kindness and compassion to their daily life.
- As clients progress through the three phases of EFT, you may find that introducing journaling can be an effective EFT activity. Ask your client to keep a journal of their experience applying what was learned in the session to their daily life. They can choose to take note of what worked well, what wasn’t helpful, and anything that they learned from their experience. Encourage your client to bring their journal to sessions with them so that you can review and validate their experiences. This will also help you gauge their progress as you progress through treatment.
- TherapyByPro offers a DBT skills worksheet that includes the acronyms ABC and PLEASE. These worksheets can be used to help clients who are looking to improve their ability to cope with emotional distress. Providing your client with a worksheet allows them to use the sheet as a reference outside of the session, which can help facilitate the use of the skills discussed.
Final Thoughts On Choosing Activities for EFT
Thank you for reading through our resource on 10 Emotionally-Focused Therapy Exercises & Activities to do with your Clients. Emotions and connection are components of human interaction that can be observed in every culture. EFT focuses on helping our clients improve their ability to connect with others in a safe, encouraging, and non-judgmental way.
Emotionally Focused Therapy activities can be used with individuals, families, and couples to enhance their counseling experience. EFT has a wide range of applicable uses which means that many of our clients can benefit from the stages associated with Emotion Focused Therapy.
If you are interested in learning more about Emotion Focused Therapy, we encourage you to seek out continuing education credits and other specialized training experiences that can help you develop the skills and understanding needed to effectively practice Emotion Focused Therapy with your clients.
TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.
View all of our Emotionally-Focused Therapy Worksheets
Greenman, P. S., & Johnson, S. M. (2022). Emotionally focused therapy: Attachment, connection, and health. Current opinion in psychology, 43, 146–150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.06.015
Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W. (2010). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Systems, Strategies, and Skills (3rd ed., pp. 413-417). Pearson Education, Inc.
Emotionally-Focused Therapy Exercises for Clients FAQs
Can you do EFT for individuals?
Emotionally focused therapy has different variations that can be applied to individuals (EFIT), couples (EFT), or families (EFFT). In all these variations, the therapeutic process is based on four fundamental elements known as the four P's: The therapist's presence, which involves being approachable, empathetic, and actively involved with the client.
How do I start an EFT Therapy practice?
At the start of an EFT therapy session, the therapist may begin by asking the client, 'What has led you to feel stuck or in need of help at this time?' They may also mention that individuals often have different perspectives about their relationships, and it's crucial to hear from each person. The therapist may then ask which person would like to begin sharing. During the initial session, the EFT therapist may also invite each partner to express the changes they wish to see in the relationship. This can help to identify whether the partners have compatible goals for the therapy.
How many EFT sessions are needed for my clients?
Typically, Clinical EFT yields positive results for PTSD within four to 10 therapy sessions.
What are the 3 goals of emotion-focused interventions?
The goals of EFT (Emotionally-Focused Therapy) are to strengthen self, regulate affect, and create new meaning.