Treating anxiety disorders by emotion-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy (EFPP)—An integrative, transdiagnostic approach

Manfred E. Beutel, Leslie Greenberg, Richard D. Lane, Claudia Subic-Wrana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Anxiety disorders are characterized by high levels of anxiety and avoidance of anxiety-inducing situations and of negative emotions such as anger. Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy (PP) have underscored the therapeutic significance of processing and transforming repressed or disowned conflicted or painful emotions. Although PP provides sophisticated means of processing intrapsychic and interpersonal conflict, EFT has empirically tested a set of techniques to access, deepen, symbolize, and transform emotions consistent with current conceptualizations of emotions and memory. Based on our clinical experience, we propose that an integrative emotion-focused and psychodynamic approach opens new avenues for treating anxiety disorders effectively, and we present a transdiagnostic manual for emotion-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy. The therapeutic approach takes into account both the activation, processing, and modification of emotion and the underlying intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts. The short-term treatment is based on the three phases of initiating treatment, therapeutic work with anxiety, and termination. Emotional poignancy (or liveliness) is an important marker for emotional processing throughout treatment. Instead of exposure to avoided situations, we endorse enacting the internal process of generating anxiety in the session providing a sense of agency and access to warded-off emotions. Interpretation serves to tie together emotional experience and insight into the patterns and the nature of underlying intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict. Treatment modules are illustrated by brief vignettes from pilot treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • anxiety disorders
  • emotion-focused psychotherapy
  • manualized psychotherapy
  • psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • psychotherapy integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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