Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Primary Adaptive Emotions in Emotion-Focused Therapy

  • Rhonda N. GoldmanEmail author
  • Irene C. Wise
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_201

Name of Concept

Primary adaptive emotions


Therapists conducting emotion-focused therapy for couples (EFT-C) assess the type of emotion the client is expressing in the session, and this informs the nature of the empathic response or choice of intervention (Greenberg and Goldman 2008). Various in-session responses include increasing emotional awareness, containing or soothing overwhelming feelings, exploring and deepening emotions, or bypassing an emotion to uncover another. One major aim of the EFT-C therapist is to listen for and guide the couple to access, symbolize, and express to each other one particular class of vulnerable feelings known as primary adaptive emotions. Research has shown that having each partner reveal and respond to these vulnerable emotions and their associated needs is the single most effective means to resolve couple conflict (Meneses and Scuka 2015).

Theoretical Context for Concept

From an evolutionary point of view, emotions allow mammals to...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Illinois School of Professional Psychology, Argosy UniversityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy UniversitySchaumburgUSA

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