Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Emotional Reactivity in Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy

  • Natasha SeiterEmail author
  • Amy D. Smith
  • Kelley Quirk
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_176

Name of Concept

Emotional Reactivity in Emotion-Focused Couple Therapy


Emotional reactivity can be defined as the strength and duration of an affective response to a stimulus (Rothbart and Derryberry 1981; Shapero et al. 2016). In the context of couples, emotional reactivity can be defined as “the frequency with which affect becomes dysregulated” in couple interactions (Greenberg and Goldman 2008, p. 58). Emotional reactivity may occur in couple therapy when a member of a couple expresses their feelings in a manner that is destructive to the relationship, resulting in the escalation of affect and negative interaction cycles. One goal of emotion-focused couple therapy (EFT-C) is to move partners away from automatic emotional reactivity and to the expression of more adaptive, regulated emotions that aid couple members in meeting their needs (Goldman and Greenberg 2007; Greenberg and Goldman 2008).

Theoretical Context for Concept

Emotions may be adaptive or maladaptive,...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marriage and Family Therapy/Applied Developmental Science Program, Colorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kelley Quirk
    • 1
  • Adam R. Fisher
    • 2
  1. 1.Colorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA