Essential processes in emotion-focused therapy

Psychotherapy (Chic). 2013 Sep;50(3):341-5. doi: 10.1037/a0032810.


Emotion-focused therapy is an evidence-based approach grounded in current experiential therapy theory and research which, in turn, draws on emotion theory and research. Fundamental assumptions are that (1) emotions are associated with a multimodal network of information, (2) accessing emotion in therapy accesses this information, and (3) attention to, and exploration of, subjective internal experience (feelings and meanings) is the primary source of new information used in construction of new meaning. The two primary mechanisms of change are thought to be the therapeutic relationship and emotional processing of problematic material. Emotional change processes include awareness, regulation, reflection, and transformation of emotion. Four intervention principles that are essential to every session are as follows: (1) collaborating on a focus for the session, (2) empathically responding to client struggles and pain, (3) responding to the emergence of adaptive emotion and associated healthy resources, and (4) promoting client experiencing (i.e., attention to, and exploration of, feelings and meanings). These in-session intervention principles are consistent with posited change process.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Emotions*
  • Empathy
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Psychotherapeutic Processes*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*