EFT Training Groups

Training Group: Emotion-Focused Therapy for Individuals

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) originated from Leslie Greenberg and Laura Rice’s efforts in the 1970s to develop a method to research critical change sequences within therapy sessions. Their work led to a new approach to therapy which used research-based maps (tasks) to guide optimal, precise moment-by-moment intervention sequences. The other foundation of EFT developed from Greenberg and Jeremy Safran’s work in the early 1980s to understand the role of emotion and different modes of emotional processing in changing clients’ deeper maladaptive patterns. Over time, this work evolved into the emotional change models that modern EFT uses to produce deep, lasting emotional change. These two lines of research evolved into the hallmark of all approaches to EFT: tracking and attuning to the client's moment-by-moment experience while using optimal intervention sequences derived from these maps.

The first treatment manual on emotion-focused therapy for individuals by Greenberg, Rice, & Elliot was published in 1993. Since that time, the model has been elaborated and validated as an effective treatment for a wide variety of problems (see EFT books). EFT now sees emotional problems as arising from issues with emotional awareness, affect regulation, and maladaptive emotion schemes (internalized patterns). To work with these issues, the approach has three phases: establishing an attuned relationship and increasing emotional awareness; developing emotional processing capacities and evoking underlying core maladaptive emotion schemes; and then transforming these schemes by accessing new adaptive emotions and integrating these changes into new narratives.

Cutting edge research over the last 15 years in Greenberg’s school has developed more detailed, nuanced emotional change models. Modern EFT uses these powerful maps to guide the overall change process while using the original task maps to guide specific, ongoing moment-by-moment interventions. Our approach emphasizes the importance of developing the ability to track both levels.

Our training starts with a detailed review of EFT principles on the therapeutic relationship, emotion, emotional processing, change processes, and the different EFT maps used to guide the therapy. We believe that the wider adoption of EFT for individuals has been hampered by a lack of clarity regarding the sequence of tasks used in individual therapy and their relationship to emotional change models. To address this problem, a clear model of the optimal sequence of tasks, how they relate to each other, and how they relate to the newer emotional change models is presented. We then facilitate building competence in tracking these maps and developing intervention skills by practicing in small groups.

Finally, our training integrates concepts from affective neuroscience on affect regulation and contemporary relational psychodynamic theory on mentalizing. We teach interventions based on these concepts to help clients increase their capacity to accept, reflect on, and transform intense, vulnerable, core emotional states.

Training Group: Emotion-Focused Therapy for Couples

Emotion-focused therapy for couples (EFT-C) evolved from Greenberg’s integration, in the early 1980s, of systems theory and relational model perspectives with his earlier work. The first treatment manual on EFT-C by Greenberg and Johnson was published in 1988. The model was developed over the next two decades by Johnson, who emphasized that attachment issues are at the core of couple conflicts. Greenberg and Goldman, updating the model in 2008, focus on the underlying maladaptive schemes and affect regulation issues that mediate attachment conflicts. This is consistent with Allan Schore's position that increased understanding of the right brain systems that underlie attachment has led to a shift from classic attachment theory to affect regulation theory.

Our training includes concepts used in Johnson's approach and adds critical concepts from Greenberg and Goldman's updated 2008 model (Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: The dynamics of emotion, love and power). While these two schools of EFT-C are based on the same core principles and overlap considerably in practice, there are significant differences. Both Johnson’s and Greenberg’s schools recognize the importance of secure attachment— that is, the adaptive, internalized expectation that significant others will respond with attuned responses to core relational needs. Johnson’s monomotivational model focuses on only one core relational need, termed attachment, that involves needs for comfort, connection, and emotional closeness. Greenberg and Goldman agree that attachment needs for connection are important but contend that there are equally important core relational needs for the validation of identity. Identity involves needs for control, respect, validation of opinions and experience, appreciation of competence, and support of preferences and choices. Core conflicts involving identity needs have different dynamics and require different interventions. Greenberg also maintains that Johnson’s emphasis on emotional accessibility and responsiveness (other-soothing) to meet needs for comfort and connection can minimize individual conflicts and issues with self-soothing.

We start with a detailed review of EFT principles on the therapeutic relationship, emotion, emotional change models, systematic/interactional dynamics, and the basic tasks that are used throughout EFT-C. We then present an approach that emphasizes constantly tracking the underlying emotional change model while using both these basic tasks and more advanced interventions. Small group practice is used throughout the training to build confidence in tracking the emotional change model and develop competence in using specific interventions.

Our approach highlights the common EFT emotional change model underlying individual and couple therapy; understanding this concept facilitates the use of individual EFT tasks at critical junctures in couple therapy as advocated by Greenberg and Goldman. For more information about our unique approach to integrating individual and couple EFT models, you can contact us or read our chapter in the Clinical Handbook of Emotion-Focused Therapy (Greenberg & Goldman, 2019).

Finally, our training integrates concepts from affective neuroscience on affect regulation and contemporary relational psychodynamic theory on mentalizing. We teach interventions based on these concepts to decrease reactivity and increase self-reflection and empathy in couples. Mentalizing, the capacity to feel while also reflecting on both one's own and one's partner's experience, is central to stable affect regulation, appropriate self-soothing, and secure attachment.

Learn more about our approach to EFT>>