Why is emotion important and what is Emotion Focused Therapy?

Emotions determine how we see the world, show us what is important to us, tell us what we want or need, help us to get in contact with our body, form our behaviours and give meaning and direction in life. 

We have emotions and actions that are adaptive in certain situations, a few examples:
When we have loss or separation (situation), we feel sad (emotion), and we would seek support (adaptive action).
When there is suffering of someone we care about (situation), we will feel compassion (emotion), and we will offer support (adaptive action).
When there is a violation or an attack on ourselves or loved ones (situation), we will feel anger (emotion), and we will want to protect/assert/defend (adaptive action).

We can also get stuck in our emotions and not be able to move on from a certain situation. At this point the emotions are not helpful anymore. For example we could:

  • Cover up an adaptive emotion with another emotion. 
  • The intensity of the emotions is too much or too little regarding the situation. 
  • An emotional response from a past experience could be triggered in a current situation.

I will tell you more about emotional response types in my next blog. 

What can we do when we get stuck in our emotions?
In a safe environment when a therapeutic alliance is built you can slowly and gradually start working with the emotions. Emotion Focused Therapy helps to get in contact with emotions, become more aware of emotions, regulate emotions, differentiate between emotions, deepen into certain emotions or core pains, accessing the underlying unmet need of the emotion, stay with certain emotions, acces useful information and promote expression of emotions.

This will eventually create relief, a shift in emotions, more awareness and better coping mechanisms. You will be able to feel more free and continue your life in a more relaxed state.

Written by: 
Flo Westendorp, Registered Clinical Psychologist
Extended Health Care Psychologist Certificate, MSc & BSc (Clinical Health Care Psychology)

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