Steps of Emotion Coaching 2018-05-03T11:09:46-04:00

Within the EFFT framework, parents and caregivers are taught emotion coaching skills in order to support their loved one’s emotional development and self-esteem. These skills can be used to prevent the development of mental health and relationship issues (including inappropriate peer orientation) and/or to support their loved one’s ability to be able to regulate his or her own emotions as a way to reduce the need for substance use, eating disorders, cutting or to cope with stress, pain, anger or loss. These skills will be especially useful if your loved one is a super-feeler.

Steps of Emotion Coaching

Within EFFT, there are two models of emotion coaching – a comprehensive model and a brief model. The comprehensive model outlines the micro-skills of emotion coaching that will serve as a framework for the use of the brief model in day-to-day interactions. Both models are presented below, beginning with the comprehensive model.

Attend to your loved one’s emotional experience by approaching the situation calmly and acknowledging the presence of emotion (essentially not ignoring the child’s expression of emotion, whether subtle or obvious).

“I see that something is up.”

Put into words the emotions (or range of emotions) that you think your loved one might possibly be experiencing. You may also help them to identify and describe the bodily felt sense that accompanies each named emotion.

“You look sad.”

This is the most important and yet the most challenging of all of the steps of emotion coaching. It communicates: “I understand you and your unique experience.”

Validating involves putting yourself in your loved one’s shoes and conveying understanding of their experience as they are experiencing it. This involves imagining what the situation must be like for them. It is important to accept, allow, and validate emotions that are different from what you expected or that are hard for you to understand.

When validating, it is also very important to resist going for the bright side, explaining with logic or trying to help them to see the situation as you see it. If you can do this, you will be showing your loved one that you understand them (and their unique experience) and this will 1) improve your relationship, 2) encourage them to keep coming to you when things get tough and 3) help them to move forward from the emotional challenge.

When validating it is also very important to “speak the unspoken”. Speaking the unspoken involves speaking that truth that you both know, but that neither of you want to say out loud.

“I can understand why you might feel sad. It really hurts to be excluded, especially when all of your friends are going to the party”.

When meeting the emotion need, it is important to refer back to the basics of emotions. Each emotion has a corresponding need from the environment.

  • Sadness:  soothing, giving a hug
  • Anger: helping to set and defend boundaries
  • Fear: protecting from danger (we do not protect anxiety! A real danger must be involved)
  • Anxiety: helping to confront the anxiety-provoking situation with love and support

“Come here. Let me give you a hug.”

Attending to, naming and validating an emotion/emotional experience goes a long way in reducing the power of the pain. As such, this step often is unnecessary since engaging in the prior steps decrease the strength of the emotion and help the child to engage in their own problem-solving.

When this step is required, problem solving communicates “I will help you sort to this out” and it can be very helpful, but only if it comes after attending, labeling and validating the emotional experience of the child.

“Why don’t we sort out how you are going to deal with this situation when you see your friends next.  And then why not catch a movie? It won’t be the same – but I think we can still have a nice time.”
Additional note: This step is critical if the child is the victim of bullying. The child will need your support to develop strategies to stand up to bullies and to access supports at school or in the community, if appropriate. Walking away from a bully is not an effective strategy despite prior teachings encouraging children to do so.