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Improve emotional understanding in therapy with the Feelings Wheel

Improve emotional understanding in therapy with the Feelings Wheel

For those of us navigating the path of personal growth through therapy, the journey doesn't pause between sessions. One powerful tool to keep your emotional work active and focused is the feelings wheel. This article will explore how to integrate it into your therapy process, helping you make the most of your time both in and out of your therapist's office and improve your emotional awareness.

What is a Feelings Wheel?

A feelings wheel is a circular diagram that maps out emotions in a hierarchical structure. At its center are core emotions like happiness, sadness, and anger, which then branch out into more nuanced feelings. This visual tool can be incredibly helpful in pinpointing and articulating your emotional experiences.

Why Use a Feelings Wheel in Your Therapy Journey?

  1. Continuity Between Sessions: It helps maintain emotional awareness and growth between therapy appointments.

  2. Improved Communication: By identifying your emotions more precisely, you can express yourself more clearly to your therapist.

  3. Deeper Self-Understanding: Regular use encourages ongoing self-reflection, a key component of successful therapy.

  4. Tracking Emotional Patterns: It can help you identify recurring emotions or triggers to discuss in your next session.

How to use the Feelings Wheel?

Step 1: Identify the Core Emotion

When you're feeling overwhelmed or unsure about your emotional state:

  • Take a deep breath and center yourself.

  • Look at the innermost circle of the wheel, focusing on the basic emotions.

  • Ask yourself, "Which of these core emotions is closest to what I'm experiencing right now?"

Step 2: Refine Your Feeling

Once you've identified a core emotion:

  • Move to the outer rings of the wheel.

  • Explore the more specific emotions linked to your core feeling.

  • Consider which of these nuanced emotions best describes your current state.

  • Remember, it's okay if more than one applies - emotions are complex!

Step 3: Reflect and Prepare

After pinpointing your emotion(s):

  • Reflect on what might have triggered this feeling.

  • Consider how this emotion relates to topics you've discussed in therapy.

  • Jot down your thoughts in a therapy journal.

  • Think about how you might want to address this in your next session.

Where to use the Feelings Wheel?

  1. Daily Check-Ins: Use the wheel for a quick emotional check-in each day. This builds self-awareness and can reveal patterns over time.

  2. Pre-Session Preparation: Before each therapy session, use the wheel to identify your current emotional state and any significant feelings you've experienced since your last session.

  3. Post-Session Processing: After therapy, use the wheel to articulate any emotions that came up during the session. This can help reinforce insights and continue the work between appointments.

  4. Tracking Triggers: When you experience a strong emotion, use the wheel to identify it precisely, then note what might have triggered it. This can provide valuable material for your next therapy session.

  5. Exploring Emotional Nuances: If you often find yourself using the same broad emotional terms (like "bad" or "upset"), challenge yourself to use the wheel to find more specific descriptors.

  6. Communicating with Your Therapist: Consider sharing your experiences with the feelings wheel in your sessions. Your therapist might provide additional insights on how to use it effectively.