Emotionally Focused Therapy

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a structured and well researched approach to resolving distress in relationships.

An intervention based on scientific study, this type of therapy is focused on addressing negative communication patterns and the attachment bond in romantic love. This method is excellent at helping people to better understand both their own emotional responses and those of their partners. In addition to creating greater security, closeness and connection in couples, EFT has been proven to reduce individual depression.

Development

Two doctors, Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg, developed Emotionally Focused Therapy in the 1980s.  Johnson is often quoted as saying that her goal was to examine emotions which, while a primary focus of individual therapy, are often left out of interventions for couples.

Today, EFT is widely used throughout the world in settings ranging from private practice to hospital clinics and is considered one of the most empirically validated forms of couples therapy.

Theory

Emotionally Focused Therapy is based on attachment theory. In simple terms, attachment is our primary emotional bond that helps us feel secure and connected—our very human need for safe haven. Discord in relationships is often related to fear of abandonment that may be so deeply rooted we’re not even aware of it.

As we experience emotional responses to this fear and feel insecure in our attachment, we adopt behaviors that are hurtful to our partner and the relationship.

Eventually, we become stuck in negative interaction patterns as we keep trying to have our needs met in counter-productive and ineffective ways. It’s a frustrating cycle and most of us aren’t aware of what is really driving it.

This foundational insecurity leads to questions, some of which are asked aloud while others underpin our actions.

Questions like…

  • Do you really love me?
  • Are you committed to us?
  • Can I trust you?

These are manifestations of not only how much we care for our partner but how much we need them in order to feel safe and secure.

But they’re often organized into negative patterns that create heightened emotions and distress. For example, one partner’s insecurity may be expressed by nagging which causes the other partner to withdraw.

That withdrawal causes the other partner feel even more insecure which (you guessed it) results in more nagging.

Through EFT, we can help you to reframe emotions and re-pattern your interactions.

It’s common to begin therapy by deescalating frequent sources of conflict. For you, those might be household chores or time spent with friends instead of your partner.

The next step is to identify the underlying feelings and fears, such as lack of trust or fear of not being truly loved.

It’s a lot less risky to shout “You never help me with the dishes!” than to confess, “I had a rough day and I’m feeling insecure. I’d love it if we could do the dishes together. How about I wash and you dry?” Once you both learn how to express your feelings and to discuss them with compassion, it becomes easier to interact from a place of vulnerability and ask for your needs to be met.

In the process, as new behaviors take root, you learn how to interrupt disconnected reactions like withdrawing or angry escalations.

Couples become more emotionally engaged and empathetic, strengthening their attachment bond and creating the safe haven they craved all along. It’s a multistage process, but with a trained EFT therapist, it can be accomplished in fewer than 20 sessions creating lasting intimacy and lifelong change.

Why We Incorporate Emotionally Focused Therapy

One of the core elements of Emotionally Focused Therapy is to identify the pattern of conflict, otherwise known as the “dance”. By understanding this dance, a new, more connected one can be designed and learned.

EFT gets below the surface and allows both partners to see and understand their own emotional responses and those of their partners. In our experience, EFT does this better than any other form of couples therapy.

Debbie and Craig are both trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy and draw upon it regularly.