Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Secondary Reactive 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_203

Name of Concept

Secondary reactive emotions


Secondary emotions


Secondary reactive emotions are “reactions to reactions” and perpetuate the negative interactional cycles couples may develop (Greenberg and Goldman 2008). Therefore, it is important to recognize and work with these emotions in emotion-focused therapy for couples (EFT-C). The EFT-C therapist strives to help the couple become aware of the secondary reactive emotions that trigger their negative relational patterns. Secondary emotions are unconscious attempts to avoid experiencing the more vulnerable feelings activated by a comment or situation. Couple conflict is resolved as the EFT-C therapist creates a safe environment to help the couple reveal and constructively respond to each other’s underlying vulnerable feelings.

Theoretical Context for Concept

In the context of a couple, secondary emotions arise when more primary attachment or identity-related emotions cannot be tolerated (Greenberg and Goldman 2008...

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  3. Greenberg, L. S., & Paivio, S. C. (1997). Working with emotions in psychotherapy. New York: The Guildford Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.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