Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is a unique approach that is used for relationships in distress and has also been shown to be very effective at decreasing and managing depressive symptoms. The way in which EFT is delivered is relatively consistent, but therapists’ personalities and individual skill sets influence the overall impact of treatment. Tools such as action skills, exploration, and insight shape the course of treatment and can lead to innovative moments (IMs) and breakthroughs for the client. Because therapists’ styles vary, Carla Cunha of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Instituto Superior da Maia/Centro de Investigacao do Nucleo de Estudose Intervencao Cognitivo—Comportamental (ISMAI/CINEICC) in Maia, Portugal, recently conducted a study that compared the therapists’ skills in three good outcome (GO) cases of EFT to three poor outcome (PO) cases. Cunha examined the specific nuances of each therapist and how they affected the therapeutic gains and IMs experienced by the clients at treatment initiation, the middle of treatment, and at the concluding sessions.
Cunha found that the action skills of the therapists were more prevalent in the GO cases than in the PO cases. Additionally, the results revealed that heavy use of insight and exploration led to more IMs in the GO sessions than in the PO sessions. Cunha also noticed that in the GO cases, the EFT skills developed early in treatment and grew through the middle of treatment. These enhanced skills were maintained throughout the conclusion of the sessions. “In contrast, in PO cases, the association increased from the initial to middle phase but then decreased from the middle to final phase,” said Cunha. She also noted that in the GO cases, the insight and exploration strategies led to reflective behaviors and transforming IMs, catalysts for change in depressed individuals. Cunha believes that these findings demonstrate the importance of focusing on early skill development to achieve a positive treatment outcome in EFT for depression.
Cunha, C., Gonçalves, M. M., Hill, C. E., Mendes, I., Ribeiro, A. P., Sousa, I., et al. (2012). Therapist interventions and client innovative moments in emotion-focused therapy for depression. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028259
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