Process-Experiential Emotion-Focused Therapy (PEEFT)

Process-Experiential Emotion-Focused Therapy (PEEFT) is a totally holistic approach that suits many different people.

It can be very helpful for people who either find it hard to regulate their emotions or who feel that their emotions are spilling over uncomfortably into other areas of their life. Equally, it is effective for people who notice that they experience little or no emotion in their life or who are perceived by others to 'live in their heads' or be too 'ultra-rational' too much of the time.

History of Process-Experiential Emotion-Focused Therapy (PEEFT) in Melbourne, Australia

In the 1990s, Dr George Wills of LaTrobe University became interested in the work of Robert Elliott, Laura Rice and Les Greenberg. At that time of post-Rogerian, person-centred and experiential approaches, they were developing the method of what is now known as PEEFT (Process-Experiential Emotion-Focused Therapy). As they continued to develop the method, Dr Wills was in ongoing communication with the authors, practicing each new development as it became available.

In 2000, with still few published manuscripts available, Judith Ayre began learning and practicing the method and discussing its applications with George Wills over several years. After introducing elements of the method into the Masters Counselling Program at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, in 2004 students demanded that the Department of Counselling and Psychological Health introduce the method as a Specialist Practice.

In 2005, Judith began teaching PEEFT (as it became known) over two subjects within the Masters in Counselling.

Her many students, including Melissa Harte who has developed the Centre for Emotion Focused Practice, have gone on to live their grand passion for the method.

Judith continues as a mentor, supervisor and teacher of this Emotion-Focused method in Melbourne.

What conditions can Process-Experiential Emotion-Focused Therapy (PEEFT) help with?

PEEFT is highly effective for people who want to recover from depression, anxiety and panic, trauma and post traumatic stress. PEEFT has been shown in long term studies of depression, after therapy has been completed, to have a more lasting effect than cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

PEEFT also works well for people suffering with phobias and unconscious fears such as fear of being criticized or fear of authority.

When there is a tiger close by, fear is a very useful emotion to have! Fear will propel you to take appropriate action. But fear is definitely not useful when it continues to exist in the absence of the tiger!

Emotional processing can empower a person with skills to manage the aftermath of intense emotional experiences more effectively. This makes it very effective for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, if someone is holding a gun to your head it is very difficult to process that experience. However, using PEEFT, we can learn to relieve the inner tension caused by that traumatic experience.

The focus of Process-Experiential Therapy is on the unfolding, immediate, felt experiencing of the inner-self in each moment. Since emotional difficulties and difficulties in making sense of life arise when we persistently ignore, override, repress or interrupt our immediate, core self-experiencing, a goal for experiential therapy is to restore or enhance our capacity to give attention to our internal experience and create adaptive and life-enhancing meaning for ourselves.

Learning how to do this emotional experiencing effectively is the key to:
  • Relieving inner tension.

  • Developing and maintaining healthy human functioning.

  • Processing complex information.

  • Propelling yourself to appropriate action.

  • Allowing growth towards self-actualization and self-realization.

  • Recognizing your emotional arousal and how this experience feels in your body.

  • Finding your centre and sitting within it.

  • Making meaningful connections within your experience.

In this therapy, the therapist supports you to recognize emotional arousal during the session and to access and recognize the bodily felt sense of that experience; next you learn to breathe into the arousal and sit with it or find your centre within it. The therapist may suggest other active expression tasks during this process.

When we access felt-sense, images of our inner experiencing emerge and so we can make connections that are meaningful. People have described the experience of touching a core emotion as akin to sitting in an American Indian Sweat Lodge. During a sweat lodge retreat we must find our centre and sit within that and allow whatever is present to emerge. If we do not sit in our centre, we will become too hot or feel claustrophobic and desperately want to leave.

In this one-on-one therapy we do not need to revisit traumatic memories and catharsis is not a goal. Touching the emotion and sitting with it for a moment can be truly transformative.

Find a PEEFT therapist.

Contact Judith Ayre