Emotionally Focused Therapy
What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?
Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is a type of relationship therapy used to improve attachment and bonding in adult relationships. This approach to couples therapy was developed by doctors Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in the 1980s.
While often used for couples, it has also been adapted for use with families. This treatment can help couples and family members form a more secure emotional bond, which can result in stronger relationships and improved communication.
EFT has been mapped into a clearly defined system consisting of nine steps across three stages that help guide the therapist and track progress. The three stages of EFT are:
This step is focused on identifying negative interaction patterns that contribute to conflict, identifying negative emotions related to attachment issues, and reframing these issues. This process helps couples better see how insecurities and fears may be hurting their relationship.
Partners begin to view undesirable behaviors (i.e., shutting down or angry escalations) as “protests of disconnection.” Couples learn to be emotionally available, empathetic, and engaged with each other, strengthening the attachment bond and safe haven between them.
During this stage, each partner learns to share their emotions and show acceptance and compassion for each other. This step helps each partner become more responsive to their partner’s needs.
The process attempts to reduce a couple’s conflict while creating a more secure emotional bond. Couples learn to express deep, underlying emotions from a place of vulnerability and ask for their needs to be met.
During the final step, a therapist helps the couple work on new communication strategies and practicing skills when interacting with each other. This process can help couples see how they have been able to change and how new interaction patterns prevent conflict.
New sequences of bonding interactions occur and replace old, negative patterns such as “pursue-withdraw” or “criticize-defend.”2 These new, positive cycles then become self-reinforcing and create permanent change. The relationship becomes a haven and a healing environment for both partners.
Benefits of Emotionally Focused Therapy
There are numerous benefits that couples can gain from EFT. Some of these include:
- Better emotional functioning: EFT provides a language for healthy dependency between partners and looks at key moves and moments that define an adult love relationship. The primary goal of the model is to expand and re-organize the emotional responses of the couple.
- Stronger bonds: EFT is based on attachment theory, which suggests that attachments between people typically provide a safe haven—a retreat from the world and a way to obtain comfort, security, and a buffer against stress.
- Improved interpersonal understanding: EFT helps people become more aware of their partner’s needs. Because of this awareness, they are also able to listen and discuss problems from a place of empathy instead of a place of defensiveness or anger.
Emotionally focused therapy can unwind automatic, counter-productive reactions that threaten relationships.
What EFT Can Help With
Emotionally focused therapy can benefit couples who are struggling with conflict, distress, and poor communication. While often used in couples therapy, EFT can also be helpful in individual therapy and family therapy. With individuals, this approach can help people improve emotion-related problems. It can also help family members form more secure bonds with one another.
The couples who may benefit from EFT include those where one or both partners struggle with depression, illness or post-traumatic stress. EFT has also proven to be a powerful approach for couples dealing with infidelity or other more traumatic incidents, both recent and past.
EFT has many strengths as a therapeutic model. First, it is supported by extensive research. Second, it is collaborative and respectful of clients. It shifts blame for the couples’ problems to the negative patterns between them, instead of the couples or individual partners themselves.
There is a substantial body of research outlining the effectiveness of this treatment. It is now considered one of the most empirically validated forms of couples therapy.
Emotionally focused therapy can be an effective way for couples to form stronger bonds and build better relationships. Research has found that EFT can improve interactions between partners and reduce the amount of stress that people experience in their relationships.
EFT Therapy Sessions
During an EFT session, a therapist observes the dynamics between a couple and then acts as a collaborator to coach and direct new ways of interacting. Unlike some other forms of therapy where the therapist is more of a passive listener, EFT therapists take an active role in guiding the conversation. The therapeutic approach also focuses on addressing emotions and interactions within the session rather than focusing on things like worksheets and homework.
Therapists are empathetic and help couples recognize their emotions as valid. They help couples and individuals recognize behaviors and patterns that they may not even be aware of and see how these actions contribute to conflict in a relationship.
Recommended EFT Books
- “Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies” by Brent Bradley and James Furrow
- “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Sue Johnson
- “An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us” by Veronica Kallos-Lilly and Jennifer Fitzgeralds
At Jupiter Community Counseling, our goal is to help you gain insight and empower you towards lasting positive change.
To make an appointment at our Jupiter counseling office, you may either call (561) 748-1244 or fill out the form below. Our Office Manager will contact you within 24 hours to help you get scheduled with the Jupiter counselor who will best serve your unique situation and needs.
Once an appointment time and date has been established, you will be sent electronic forms to your email address to be completed prior to your initial session.
Our office is conveniently located in the center of Jupiter at 1132 W. Indiantown Road, on the second floor in suite #202. We are in the 2-story, yellow building with the ‘Sola’ marquee sign.
We look forward to working with you!
Please be aware, we do not file insurance. We are happy to provide you with an invoice to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. Our fees range from $125 – $185 per session.
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