Emotion-focused therapy for the treatment of social anxiety: an overview of the model and a case description

Clin Psychol Psychother. 2014 Nov-Dec;21(6):536-47. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1853. Epub 2013 Jul 1.


Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is an integrative and experiential treatment approach that views emotions as fundamentally adaptive and privileges attention to, and exploration of, emotional experiences. EFT has been demonstrated to be efficacious with depression, interpersonal trauma and marital discord, but application to anxiety disorders is in its initial stages. The purpose of this paper is to present the main principles of using EFT with socially anxious patients and to make the case that EFT is particularly well suited for working with this patient group. The primary change processes in EFT for social anxiety include improving emotion awareness, reducing experiential avoidance and the activation and transformation of shame that underlies the symptomatic anxiety. Such processes lead to less self-criticism, to more self-compassion and self-soothing and to a more favourable perception of the self. A case example is used to illustrate how these principles were applied with a socially anxious patient.

Keywords: Emotion-focused Therapy; Emotions; Self-criticism; Shame; Social Anxiety.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Shame
  • Social Behavior*