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Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy and Why It's Important?

Learn about Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy and how it can help your client's emotional growth. Discover EFT techniques you can use in your practice.

By Ashleigh Knowles on Jun 16, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy (EFT) is an evidence-based therapy method to provide individuals with tools and strategies for managing difficult emotions. It focuses on understanding how our emotions affect us, recognizing patterns we have developed around emotional regulation, and developing healthier skills for dealing with our feelings.

In this guide, we'll explore why Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy is important and how it can benefit those who engage in it. We'll also provide several essential EFT techniques to integrate into your practice.

What is Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy? 

Emotions can have both positive and negative effects on individuals. Positive emotions can enhance well-being, foster social connections, and improve physical health. Negative emotions, on the other hand, can be distressing and overwhelming, leading to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps individuals learn to identify and process their emotions to manage them better. The goal is to help people recognize patterns of how they respond to their emotions and learn new strategies for regulating those feelings to live a happier, healthier life.

Based on Dr. Sue Johnson's Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), this approach believes that emotional processing and regulation are essential for healthy functioning and well-being. It focuses on understanding the individual's emotional experience and helping them to develop new ways of responding to their emotions.

When is Emotionally Focused Individuals Therapy Used?

EFT for individuals can be helpful for those who are struggling with various upsetting emotions, including sadness, fear, anger, and guilt. It can also help those dealing with relationship issues and emotional trauma. People may choose to use EFT as a stand-alone therapy or in conjunction with other types of therapy. This approach can be used to:

Address and resolve underlying issues

EFT can help individuals identify the root of their issues, which can be challenging to access without proper guidance. By assisting individuals in understanding the underlying causes of their emotions and working through them, therapists can provide lasting relief from troubling emotions.

Improve communication among individuals in a relationship

Working through the emotions causing stress in the relationship can help individuals become better communicators. Through EFT, individuals can learn to express their emotions healthily and resolve conflicts more proactively.

Increase understanding and acceptance of one’s own emotions

Through Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy, patients can better understand their emotions and how to manage them. It also helps them identify core beliefs, patterns, and behavior causing emotional distress. Moreover, EFT can guide clients create new ways to express their emotions.

Build healthier relationships with others

EFT can help individuals build healthier relationships with their partners, family members, and peers. By effectively identifying and working through emotions, they can learn how to better connect and communicate with their loved ones.

The Therapist's Role in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Individuals

Initially developed for couples, Emotionally Focused Therapy has since been adapted for individual use. In Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy, the therapist's role is critical in facilitating a safe and supportive therapeutic environment where clients can explore and process their emotions (Makinen & Johnson, 2006; Johnson, 2019). Here are some of the roles that a therapist has in EFT:

Creating a safe and secure therapeutic environment

The therapist must establish a strong and trusting relationship with the client, providing a safe and supportive space where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of judgment.

Identifying emotional patterns

The therapist helps clients recognize their emotional patterns and how they may contribute to their distress. This includes identifying the triggers, thoughts, and behaviors that lead to negative emotions.

Exploring and processing emotions

The therapist creates a secure space for the client to delve into and manage their emotions, wherein they help the client to recognize and communicate both initial emotions (like sorrow or fury) and subsequent emotions (like humiliation or remorse). Through this process, the therapist helps the client gain insight into their emotional responses and develop coping strategies to navigate challenging situations.

Promoting emotional regulation

The therapist teaches the clients novel techniques to handle their emotions, including but not limited to mindfulness practices, self-kindness, and strategies to regulate their emotional responses. These skills can be applied in various aspects of life, leading to a greater sense of emotional well-being and resilience.

Addressing underlying attachment issues

EFT for individuals often addresses underlying attachment issues contributing to emotional distress. The therapist helps clients understand how their attachment history may impact their current emotional experiences and relationships.

In Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy, the therapist plays a crucial role in establishing a secure and nurturing space for clients to investigate and manage their emotions, which is paramount to the success of the therapy.

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy Techniques and Examples

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy Techniques can help individuals identify, understand, and regulate their emotions, improve communication and relational skills, and increase self-awareness. Here are some common techniques:

Emotion Regulation

This technique focuses on helping individuals identify and regulate their emotions. It involves learning mindfulness, deep breathing, and grounding exercises to help individuals manage overwhelming emotions.

For example, the client might be encouraged to practice taking deep breaths when they start to feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Imagery Rescripting

This Emotionally Focused Therapy technique involves revisiting past experiences and replacing negative emotions with positive emotions.

For example, an individual might be asked to recall a traumatic event and then imagine a positive outcome or a different response to the situation. This can help them reframe their past experiences and develop a more positive outlook.

Attachment Exploration

Attachment Exploration is a therapeutic EFT technique that involves exploring an individual's attachment history, relationship patterns, and emotional responses to gain insight into their current challenges.

For example, the therapist might ask the client to explore their childhood experiences and how they have shaped their current relationship patterns.

Experiential Techniques

These techniques involve using experiential exercises such as role-playing, guided imagery, and art therapy to help individuals explore and express their emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

For example, an individual might be asked to role-play a difficult conversation to practice assertiveness and boundary-setting.

Chair Work

Chair Work is often used in EFIT to help individuals process difficult emotions or unresolved conflicts. By externalizing these internal experiences, individuals can gain new perspectives and insights and develop more adaptive coping strategies.

For example, an individual might sit in one chair and talk to an empty chair representing a part of themselves or a significant person. This can help individuals explore and express conflicting emotions.

It should be highlighted that the methods can be modified to suit Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or Emotionally Focused Family Therapy as well. By utilizing EFT techniques, there is a possibility of enhancing emotional bonding, nurturing a secure attachment, and cultivating more wholesome relationships.

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy App – How Can Carepatron Help?

Carepatron is the one-stop shop for managing your mental health practice. Streamline your workflows, and provide better care to patients using our innovative practice management platform! 

Here are just a few reasons why Carepatron is the ultimate solution for mental health practitioners:

  • Comprehensive Patient Management. Keep track of patient details, treatment plans, appointments, and notes all in one place. No more scrambling to find scattered information!
  • Secure Telehealth. Conduct virtual appointments with ease, and ensure HIPAA compliance with our secure telehealth platform. Your patients can receive the care they need from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Automated Reminders. Set up automated appointment reminders for your patients, and never worry about missed appointments again. You'll save time and reduce the likelihood of no-shows.
  • Billing and Invoicing. Simplify your billing process with Carepatron's built-in invoicing and payment features. Say goodbye to manual invoicing and late payments!

Trusted by thousands of healthcare providers, Carepatron is the best choice for managing your mental health practice. Make the switch today and see the difference!

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy Software


Johnson, S. (2019). Attachment theory in practice: Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) with individuals, couples, and families. Guilford Press.

Makinen, J. A., & Johnson, S. M. (2006). Resolving attachment injuries in couples using emotionally focused therapy: Steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(6), 1055–1064. doi: 10.1037/0022-006x.74.6.1055.

Commonly asked questions

Who typically uses Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy is used by individuals of all ages struggling with emotional regulation, attachment issues, and interpersonal relationship challenges.

What risks and issues are associated with Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy?

The primary risk associated with Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy is the potential for negative emotional reactions during treatment. It is important to ensure that clients have a safe and supportive environment to process their emotions.

Who is the founder/creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy for individuals?

Emotionally Focused Therapy was developed by Susan Johnson in the 1980s. Johnson is an internationally recognized leader in the field, and her work has revolutionized how we think about and practice psychotherapy.

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