Emotion Focused Therapy, commonly known as EFT, has its roots in systematic theory, a humanistic-experiential approach, and attachment theory. (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). With EFT, emotions are viewed as a vital piece of the puzzle, namely ourselves. Our emotions have the potential to adapt and adapt based on previous experiences (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).
Emotion-Focused Therapy aligns with the therapeutic terms described by Carl Rogers. Counselors work to incorporate conformity, unconditional positive regard, and empathy into their work. These conditions allow us to create a safe environment for the development of a therapeutic relationship. EFT also includes the directiveness of Gestalt Therapy, which can guide the client through the session (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 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 counseling sessions so that they can be understood and then transformed into new emotions that better reflect the client’s self-narrative (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). This allows clients to gain greater self-awareness, increase resilience, and gain greater validation of their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010).
EFT can be divided into three stages with nine tasks between them (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). The first phase will be de-escalation, which involves steps 1-4 (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). Reciprocity is the second stage, which includes steps 5-7 (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). And the final stage is consolidation and integration, which includes steps 8 and 9 (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). Keep reading to learn 10 Emotionally Focused Therapy Exercises and 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 a variety of presenting concerns that clients experience. Common concerns with Emotionally Focused Therapy include depression, substance abuse, relationship discord and concerns, and trauma-related concerns in various populations (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010). EFT can also be used for individuals with certain physical illnesses such as heart disease and cancer (Greenman, PS & Johnson, SM, 2022).
Emotionally Focused Therapy Activities to Do with Clients
Emotion-Focused Therapy can be a useful therapeutic approach to use for many clients. EFT exercises can be used to explore changes that can help our clients achieve their goals of improving their relationships with others. This may include learning to regulate emotions in a healthy way, improving communication patterns, and exploring existing patterns in their relationships.
Examples of Emotionally Focused Therapy exercises that can be used in therapy sessions include:
- EFT exercises can act as an educational tool to help clients understand how their experiences relate to their emotions. TherapyByPro offers Identifying Emotional Triggers A worksheet that can help clients identify triggers they may encounter in different areas of their lives, such as people, places and things. You can then work with your client to develop a plan for how to deal with their top 5 emotional triggers. After completing this worksheet, you can encourage your client to keep it for reference outside of sessions. Allow time to check in at subsequent sessions to explore the effectiveness of their ability to deal with the trigger and discuss any improvements that could be made.
- Emotion-Focused Counseling includes several interventions that counselors can use. The interventions used during the session are similar to those outlined by Carol Rodgers, including asking eliciting questions, reflective listening, reconstructing patterns, following and repeating key points, and validating your client’s experience (Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW, 2010).
- TherapyByPro has developed a worksheet specifically for counselors working with couples. Their EFT negative cycle The worksheet can be used to help couples explore negative cycles within their behavior that negatively impact relationship satisfaction. Partners will better understand each other’s experiences and reactions, which can help them see their period from a different perspective. By understanding more about relationship patterns, they can work together to break the cycle by making changes in behaviors that may be causing emotional distress. After working through this worksheet and processing the impact of these changes, allow them time to follow up in subsequent sessions to explore the changes they observe.
- A key component of EFT is helping our clients learn to cope with distress and anxiety. A helpful EFT activity would be to spend time focusing on healthy coping skills and exploring which ones may apply to specific triggers and issues your client is experiencing. There are many different coping skills, so it can be helpful to explore different categories, including distractions, mental strategies, physical activities, interpersonal skills, and spiritual skills. Encourage your client to use new coping skills outside of the session and monitor their ability to do so in your next session.
- Part of improving our overall emotional health is understanding how our emotions can affect the people around us. Developed by TherapyByPro Ideal Emotional State The 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 effect it had on those around them. You will then help them explore how they might have handled the situation differently if given the opportunity. You can help your client explore what steps they need to take to get closer to their identified ideal emotional state. After completing this worksheet, give them time to explore the changes they notice in their reactions.
- Similar to the Ideal Emotional State Worksheet, developed by TherapyByPro Emotional response worksheet examines how negative and sad emotions affect their behavior. Your client will be asked to go through a recent experience with a sad emotion and how it affected their behavior. They will be asked to identify a healthy response in this situation that could improve the outcome. Support your client by helping them when they encounter some difficulties while working with this EFT activity. Check in for follow-up sessions to explore any changes they experience in their response to sad emotions.
- Clients who struggle with their ability to cope with their emotions may benefit from learning meditation practices. Meditation can be a healthy and effective strategy for managing mental health problems. Take time to discuss different forms of meditation and allow time to practice some meditations in the session. Be careful with clients you introduce to meditation, as some clients with trauma-related concerns may find meditation helpful. Give them time to process their experience and encourage them to use the meditation once or twice before the next session.
- Many clients who are actively engaged in therapy benefit from learning about self-compassion and self-care. Actively engaging in therapy can be difficult for many, and clients may not have the experience they had hoped for, perhaps taking longer to make progress than they initially expected. Exploring ways to show compassion and kindness can be helpful and effective for clients who are putting too much pressure on themselves. Take the time to explore your client’s current self-care routines and explore how they can bring more kindness and compassion into their daily lives.
- As clients move through the three stages of EFT, you can see that journaling can be an effective EFT activity. Ask your client to keep a journal of their experiences, applying what they learn in the session to their daily life. They can choose to record what worked well, what didn’t, and what they learned from their experience. Encourage your client to bring their journal to sessions with them so you can review and validate their experiences. This will also help measure their progress as they progress through treatment.
- TherapyByPro offers a DBT skills worksheet that includes acronyms ABC and PLEASE. These worksheets can be used to help clients who want to improve their ability to cope with emotional distress. Providing your client with a worksheet allows them to use the worksheet as a reference outside of the session, which can help facilitate the use of the skills discussed.
Final thoughts on selecting activities for EFT
Thanks for reading our resource on 10 Emotionally Focused Therapy Exercises and Activities with Your Clients. Emotions and connection are an integral part of human interaction that can be observed in every culture. EFT helps our clients improve their ability to connect with others in a safe, encouraging and non-judgmental way.
Emotionally Focused Therapy activities can be used to enhance counseling experiences with individuals, families, and couples. EFT has a wide range of uses, which means that many of our clients can benefit from the stages associated with Emotionally Focused Therapy.
If you are interested in learning more about Emotionally Focused Therapy, we encourage you to seek continuing education credits and other specialized training experiences that can help you develop the skills and understanding needed to effectively practice Emotionally Focused Therapy with your clients.
TherapyByPro is a program online mental health directory connecting mental health professionals with clients in need. If you are a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your experience listing here. We have templates for assessments, practice forms, and worksheets that mental health professionals can use to facilitate their practice. Look at all of us mental health worksheets here.
Greenman, PS, & Johnson, SM (2022). Emotionally focused therapy: Attachment, relationship and health. Current Opinion in Psychology, 43, 146-150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.06.015
Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW (2010). Counseling theories and Psychotherapy: Systems, Strategies, and Skills (3rd ed., pp. 413-417). Pearson Education, Inc.