Emotion-Focused Therapy for Depression

Status: Modest Research Support


Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) for depression builds on Greenberg’s (2004) more general process-experiential approach that was designed to help patients identify, utilize, and process emotions. Depression is thought to involve inhibited processing of emotions and experiences, and the therapist provides a safe and soothing environment to reduce the anxiety and avoidance associated with difficult emotions. Emotion-focused therapy includes three specific phases: Emotion Awareness, Emotion Regulation, and Emotion Utilization or Transformation. Patients learn to increase awareness of their emotions, deepen their emotional experiences, understand unhealthy emotional responses so that they can be regulated or used to generate more adaptive emotion alternatives, and to use healthy emotions to guide action. This therapy typically includes 16 to 20 sessions.


Key References (in reverse chronological order)

Ellison, J.A., Greenberg, L. S., Goldman, R. N., & Angus, L. (2009). Maintenance of gains following experiential therapist for depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 103-112.

Goldman, R., Greenberg, L. & Angus, L. (2006 ) The Effects of Adding Emotion-focused Interventions to the Therapeutic Relationship in the Treatment of Depression. Psychotherapy Research. 16, 537–549.

Watson, J. C., Gordon, L. B., Stermac, L., Kalogerakos, F., & Steckley, P. (2003). Comparing the effectiveness of process-experiential with cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy in the treatment of depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 773-781.

Greenberg, L. S., & Watson (1998). Experiential therapy of depression: Differential effects of client-centered relationship conditions and process experiential interventions. Psychotherapy Research, 8, 210-224.


Clinical Resources

Greenberg, L. S. & Watson, J. C. (2005). Emotion-focused therapy for depression. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Greenberg, L. S. (2004). Emotion-focused therapy. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11, 3-16.

Watson, J. C., Goldman, R. N., Greenberg, L. S., (2007). Case studies in emotion-focused treatment of depression: A comparison of good and poor outcome. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.


Training Opportunities

Training opportunities and resources are available at the Emotion-Focused Therapy website

Leslie S. Greenberg. Emotion-focused therapy for depression. Produced by American Psychological Association’s APA Psychotherapy Videos, April 2007.