Understanding Emotion-Focused Therapy – A Complete Guide

Emotionally focused therapy is a humanistic approach that prioritizes emotion and emotional regulation. It uses the science of adult attachment to view people as innately relational and wired for intimate bonding with others.

Therapists trained in this model use techniques such as empathic exploration for problem-relevant experiences and reframes to move negative beliefs and interpretations. They help clients identify their primary emotions and create new sequences of bonding interactions.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a relatively new term for an old concept-the idea that people have certain emotional abilities. The competencies that make up emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (see image below).

When a person with low Emotional Intelligence is not careful, they can be overwhelmed by emotions and their negative effects, leading to problems in work and relationships. In contrast, people who are highly emotionally intelligent have better mental health, emotional stability, and fewer relationship problems.

Having a high level of emotional intelligence is correlated with many positive outcomes in life, including better academic achievement and a higher sense of well-being. Fortunately, it is possible to learn and improve the skills that comprise emotional intelligence. A great place to start is by taking a comprehensive 360-degree assessment that includes ratings from others who know you well.


Self-awareness is an important trait for anyone to have. It helps us identify our strengths and weaknesses, understand how we impact others, and build self-confidence.

However, research on dispositional self-awareness (or mindfulness) has been mixed, and there has yet to be a comprehensive measure of the outcomes associated with this construct. This two-part study sought to advance understanding by developing a questionnaire for measuring self-awareness outcomes, the Self-Awareness Outcomes Questionnaire (SAOQ).

Using expert focus groups, 61 potential outcome items were categorized and extended into four major themes. Participants’ responses to these themes were then analyzed for positive and negative effects. Results indicate that higher scores on the SAOQ are associated with reflective self-development, acceptance, and proactivity but also have a negative association with costs.


Choose professional emotion-focused therapy in Ottawa, since it is effective for couples and individuals struggling to understand their emotions. Therapists trained in this method use a collaborative process to help clients learn to increase their awareness of their feelings, recognize patterns, and replace unhelpful reactions with healthier ones.

To achieve this, a therapist may encourage clients to overcome avoidance and engage in live contact with their emotions, using evocative responses or open-ended questions. The goal is to provide a safe, calming, validating environment to work with their emotional experiences.

The therapist will also guide the client through experiences to increase their ability to adapt their emotions, improve self-soothing, and regulate their reactions to life’s challenges. This can help them form new implicit self-soothing skills that benefit their relationships and overall well-being.


Empathy is imagining yourself in someone else’s situation, and identifying with their thoughts and feelings. It differs from sympathy, which is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for another person’s hardships.

Empathy can help you connect with friends and loved ones as you understand their emotions. It can also diffuse conflict by showing that you have similar experiences and are not so different from one another.

It’s important to note that people have different levels of empathy and can develop it over time. Some people may have a lower level of empathy than others due to genetics or past experiences, but most can learn how to be more empathetic.

Compassionate empathy is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy. You can recognize the other person’s emotions and feel them in your own body (emotional empathy). Often, this includes physical sensations such as chest or stomach pain.


Emotion-focused therapy is useful for couples struggling with conflict and poor communication. However, it can also be used by individuals to improve their relationships with others and create more secure bonds.

To begin, a therapist will help clients gain awareness of their emotions by accessing experiences and linking them to patterns. Techniques such as systematic evocative unfolding and chair work help clients understand their experiences.

In addition, a therapist will teach clients how to communicate in a way that allows them to express their feelings and ask for unmet needs. Some people tend to suppress their emotions, which can have negative health impacts over time. For example, pushing down anger can cause physical stress. Learning to express your emotions and understanding them can prevent these issues from occurring.



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