EMOTIONAL AWARENESS-BASED CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy)

Emotional awareness-based CBT (EACBT) is a core part of my psychotherapy practice. Emotions can be perplexing, painful, eye-opening, or joyous. Though they come and go, they need to be addressed for you to be the complete person you can be.

Our emotional feelings get drawn out of us sometimes,
Or we may offer them
Or they get stirred – or stirred up
Or they fill us, captivate us
Or we work with them
Or they confuse us or inform us,
Or we tame them, or they sweep us up
Or we focus them (or they focus us),
Or they grip us,
Or we play with them. or they play with us . . .
Or they uplift us and invigorate us.

Everyone brings their issues with emotional life to therapy. In the 1990s, psychologists and neuroscientists became keenly aware that CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) – then the rising star of evidence-based psychotherapy – seemed curiously lacking in focus on people’s real, substantial, palpable emotions. This deficiency was very serious:  We can only start to feel better once we realize that we’re feeling bad and actively endeavor to gain a clearer sense of the ways our feelings are affecting us.

By 1994, the focus of psychology and psychotherapy expanded to encompass richer awareness of emotions. In his work, Descartes’ Error, neuroscientist Antonio Dimasio posited that the essence of our humanness is best captured in the statement, “I feel, therefore I am”, rather than Descartes’s classic “I think, therefore I am.” In 1996, neuroscientist Joseph Ledoux wrote an excellent, groundbreaking guidebook, The Emotional Brain. Psychologists Paul Ekman and Richard Davidson published The Nature of Emotion (1994), a grand exploration into theory and research on the relationship between emotional feelings and emotional disorders and the role enhanced emotional awareness can play in human functioning.

Concurrently, psychological scientists and psychotherapists began researching and bringing mindfulness and Buddhist psychology into psychotherapy practice. Meditation training and the Buddhist psychological perspective proved to enable people to become more aware of their emotions, disturbing thoughts, and bewildering thought patterns and learn to function better by working with them in strong, effective ways.  Psychoanalyst and Buddhist teacher Mark Epstein (2021) observed, “Emotions move on nerve pathways that are faster than thought. They can take us by surprise and overwhelm our carefully constructed mental defenses. Emotions, by their very nature, are out of our control. (The Zen of Therapy, 2021).”

A wealth of new therapies have developed that focus on understanding and working directly with emotions – their richness, the vital role they play in being human, mind, body, and feeling, and relief of emotional pain. These therapies integrate the neuroscience of emotion, traditional CBT, mindfulness and acceptance, Buddhist psychology, and techniques from different schools of therapy. They all formulate and articulate very effective emotion-focused treatment of emotional disorders. You may be familiar with some of these interventions that include Marsha Linehan’s Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT -Marsha Linehan), Steven Hayes’s Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – and David Barlow’s Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders.

In my emotional awareness-based CBT, I integrate the best and most scientifically supported aspects of these and evidence-based other approaches.  We will work as a team to focus on your becoming familiar with the immediate sense of emotions – the disturbing feelings and the ebb and flow of emotions, moods, and emotional experience, as they come to play in your emotional life.

You will learn to open up space in yourself to become clearer and more aware of emotional feelings within you. You will develop skills to guide your emotions and become your best self, the person you strive to be. In our working together, your emotions will come to assume their essential role in enabling you to understand, heal, revitalize yourself, and achieve your unique and most valued goals.