Professional Life

Leslie Greenberg was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 30, 1945. He initially studied engineering in college, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1967 from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and a master's from McMaster’s University in Toronto, Ontario in 1970. Five years later, Greenberg graduated with a PhD in psychology from York University in Toronto, and he promptly began his teaching career at the University of British Columbia. He completed his externship at the Family Therapy Mental Research Institute and an internship in family therapy at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco. Greenberg is presently a professor in the department of psychology at York University, where he is also director of the university's Psychotherapy Research Center.

Greenberg co-founded emotion-focused therapy (EFT), also known as emotionally focused therapy, in collaboration with Sue Johnson. He is also the director for the Emotion-Focused Therapy Clinic housed at York University. Greenberg co-founded the Society of the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) and the Society for Constructivism in Psychotherapy (SCP). He is the author of several books, including Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: The Dynamics of Emotion, Love and Power and Emotion-Focused Therapy for Depression. Greenberg has been recognized for his contributions to psychology with the Distinguished Contribution to the Profession from the Canadian Psychological Association, and the Distinguished Research Career award from the International Society for Psychotherapy Research.  

Contribution to Psychology

Greenberg's emotion-focused therapy is informed by therapeutic approaches such as person-centered and Gestalt therapy and by neuroscience, which can help explain how emotions work. Greenberg refers to his approach as affective regulation and he aims to help people in relationships express themselves more fully.

This therapeutic approach is based on the notion that emotions act as our internal compass, guiding our actions, informing our desires, and helping us to grow and develop healthy attachments. The focus of therapy is on the regulation of emotions in order to facilitate behavioral change, and EFT helps people gain awareness of and experience their emotions safely within a therapy session. EFT therapists are trained to identify primary and secondary emotions. For example, sometimes anger is displayed as a secondary emotion, because it masks the primary emotion of fear or sadness. People then learn to understand, manage, and transform maladaptive emotions through EFT, so that they can access and utilize healthy, adaptive emotions, such as compassion or grief.

EFT is usually conducted in less than 20 sessions and was originally intended to help couples address painful emotional experiences within their relationships. EFT evolved so that it is equally as effective with families. EFT is an evidence-based practice demonstrating effectiveness.


  1. Brubacher, L. (2006). Integrating Emotion-Focused Therapy with the Satir Model. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32(2), 141-53. Retrieved from
  2. Erdman, Phyllis. (2007). Using Emotions as a Pathway for Change. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
  3. Leslie Greenberg, c.v. (2005). York University. Retrieved from