What are the differences between Emotionally Focused Therapy (Sue Johnson) and Emotion Focused Therapy (Leslie Greenberg)?

While the two approaches shared a historical beginning in the early 1980’s, integrating for the first time systemic and humanist/experiential approaches, they have diverged significantly over the years.

Sue Johnson places attachment theory front and center in her work all the while retaining the systemic, interpersonal and intrapsychic aspects of therapy. This model has revolutionized couple therapy and has also strongly influenced traditional systemic family therapy. Emotionally Focused Therapy has opened the way towards a form of individual therapy that is more focused not only on emotions but also on relationships and experience of self and other in these relationships. In a nutshell, Emotionally Focused therapists have a humanist posture, working systemically and experientially with an attachment perspective with the aim to change emotional experiences in real relationships as well as in one’s experience of the self. Emotions are used experientially as therapeutic leverage to create change.

Leslie Greenberg moved in the direction of deeper intrapsychic and experiential work, all the while retaining the humanist/experiential aspects of therapy.  His model has a very strong focus on emotions in both the conceptualization of human distress and as therapeutic leverage. Attachment and the systemic dynamics are not emphasized in Greenberg’s model. Emotion Focused therapists work with emotions and meaning in session, with the objective of changing maladaptive emotion related to experience of self and the world with new, adaptive emotions.