Have you ever been told your “too emotional?” Maybe it’s been pointed out that you cry too much or can get overly moody. Have comments like that caused you to try to repress and hold in your emotions as much as possible? Today we want to talk about a type of therapy that puts your emotions front and center. Emotion-focused therapy is a modality of healing that aims to remove shame from emotions as it’s believed emotions hold the key to both identity and choice. Let’s feel our feels and dive in a little deeper into this type of therapy treatment.

Defining Emotion-Focused Therapy

As we said above, emotion-focused therapy follows the theory that our identity and emotions are completely intertwined. This approach also theorizes that our emotions guide our ability to make decisions. From another perspective, this type of treatment would infer that those who lack emotional awareness or avoid specific emotions could cause unintentional harm. When we aren’t aligned with our emotions or acknowledge their validity, we can miss out on the valuable information they can provide.

What Information Is That?

It may sound strange that our emotions have the ability to provide us with information. But here are just a few ways that our emotions play a role in our everyday life:

  • Showing us that an important goal or need can be attained and sought after in the current situation
  • Showing us that the same goal or need is compromised in the current situation
  • Can help us to set goals
  • How we view and appraise both the self and the environment
  • Communicating intentions and expectations to others and regulating interactions
  • Informs our decision making
  • Alerts us to a possible threat

What Does an Emotion-Focused Therapy Session Look Like?

As you may have guessed, during emotion-focused therapy, your emotions are front and center. It follows three principles as a means to guide the patient through areas of healing. These principles are:

  • Increasing emotional awareness
  • Enhancing the regulation of emotions
  • Transforming them appropriately

In emotion-focused therapy, the therapist is merely there as a guide. This means that sessions are collaborative, and both the patient and therapist are equal. Sessions will focus on the core concept of emotion schemes. Essentially, these schemes outline how emotions are interpreted:

  • Physical experience
  • Physiologic change
  • Mental shift or influenced thinking
  • Choice of how to act upon it

The Goals of Emotion-Focused Therapy

Before we can talk about goals, we need to talk about the development of the two main skills that are focused on during sessions. This first is to use awareness and acceptance to get in touch with one’s emotions. The second is learning the ability to transform emotion and use the information it provides optimally. The goals of the treatment will change and evolve as the patient becomes more practiced in these skills. Some initial goals include:

  • Becoming more aware of emotions
  • Allowing the emotions
  • Regulating the emotions
  • Describing the emotions

Goals after the first few sessions will evolve to include:

  • Identifying the validity of emotions
  • Using emotions to help guide action
  • Put a pattern and source to unhelpful emotion
  • Transforming unhelpful emotions
  • Curate coping mechanisms to deal with negative and unhelpful emotion

Who Is Emotion-Focused Therapy For?

While anyone can try any kind of therapy treatment, there are a few cases where emotional-focused therapy is preferred for those who:

  • Are unaware of their emotions
  • Repress emotions and hold them in
  • Avoid certain emotions due

Emotion-focused therapy can be utilized for individuals, couples, and families. In regard to families, it can aid in cases of:

  • Divorce
  • Newly blended family – i.e. step-parents/siblings
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavioral problems

Let CPA and Emotion-Focused Therapy Help You!

Emotional-focused therapy is a wonderful tool. This kind of treatment gives you the power to help you heal and have the capacity to not let your emotions get the better of you. If you are interested in emotional-based therapy, Cristina Panaccione and Associates has ine location in the South Hills and one office in Robinson Township. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you learn the skills to cope with whatever emotion you may be feeling!


* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.


Michael Breitenbach – LPC

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions. If you want to change, don’t wait until the New Year, make the change today. If you chose to change, make sure you are doing it for yourself and not for anybody else. Therapy is more effective when there is internal desire for change; but with change can bring the fear of the unknown and that’s where the support of an objective therapist can help alleviate the experience. The key to personal progress is the relationship that you have with your therapist. There is no one size fits all approach to therapy, so I have taken an eclectic approach to meet the many needs and demands of life. My expertise falls within the addiction and dual diagnosis realm, but not limited to drugs and alcohol, as addiction can permeate into many other facets of life. In my current position, I provide clinical insight to hospitals and other inpatient programs for individuals with Behavioral Health as well as Physical Health issues ranging from Schizophrenia to Hepatitis C. I help providers and individuals identify barriers to treatment, while utilizing their strengths for personal progress.     I may not have all the answers to your questions and problems, but I can certainly point you in the right direction, give you the resources to be successful, and work together to develop a plan for a healthier you!