Emotion Focused Therapy

Emotion-Focused Therapy in Petaluma ~ Sonoma County

The Importance of Processing Emotions

C.G. Jung said, “Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” Emotion is a complex state of being or feeling that results in bodily and psychological changes and influences thoughts and behavior.

As Jung emphasized, emotion is a central feature of any life changing psychotherapy. It is the energy that fuels our behavior, and often the place where symptoms emerge. Sometimes there is too much emotion, as in states of emotional overwhelm; at other times there is none at all, as in states of depression. In depth oriented psychotherapy, emotion plays a key role in understanding what is happening in the client’s inner life.

How we relate to our emotional life becomes key in the transformation of difficult symptoms. Attachment theory and research suggests that, as a result of early life experiences, three typical patterns of relating to emotions emerge. These include:

1.     Dealing but Not Feeling: Some individuals fall into a pattern of disconnecting from feelings and, perhaps, becoming very “heady” about things. This involves bypassing emotions and becoming very logical. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this pattern, it has its limitations. In this pattern, an individual misses vital information that emotions provide. Also, it can be difficult for loved one to relate to an individual who may seem emotionally aloof, distant, or absent. Psychotherapy for this pattern often aims at helping the individual increase awareness of and access to emotions in order to enrich experience.

2.     Feeling but Not Dealing: In some ways the opposite of “dealing but not feeling,” this pattern involves too much emotion. The individual becomes overwhelmed by feelings and has a hard time reflecting on them in order to access the information they provide. Additionally, the individual’s emotional landscape may shift rather rapidly, and life can feel a bit like a roller coaster. Psychotherapy for this pattern often aims to reduce the intensity of feeling while strengthening the reflective, thinking function.

3.     Feeling and Dealing: When we relate to our emotional experience in a reflective manner, we can use our feelings to understand where we are with things, and how we want to respond. When “feeling and dealing,” there is neither too much nor too little emotion. A feeling arises and is used to inform a decision, clarify a value, or motivate a behavior that aligns with the individual’s needs. 

Sil Machado, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist in Santa Rosa, CA. He works extensively with individuals and couples struggling with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and relationship issues. Dr. Machado takes an integrative approach in which he blends emotion-focused psychotherapies with evidence-based, cutting edge practices, such as EMDR and neurofeedback, in a manner suited to the unique needs of each client.