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Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT)

Emotionally focused therapy

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is an empirically supported humanistic treatment that arose out of the theoretical integration of research on psychotherapy with ideas from constructivist psychology, emotion theory, and attachment theory. It views emotions as centrally important in the experience of self and others, in both adaptive and maladaptive functioning, and in therapeutic change. From the EFT perspective, change occurs by means of emotional awareness and arousal, regulation of emotion, reflection on emotion, and transformation of emotion taking place within the context of an empathetically attuned relationship. In EFT an important goal is to arrive at the lived experience of a maladaptive emotion (e.g., chronic fear and shame) in order to transform it. The transformation comes from the client accessing a new primary adaptive emotional state in the therapy session. Using the notion of transforming emotion with emotion, the therapist guides clients to express emotions that pull for compassion and connection.

Emotionally focused therapy for couples (EFT-C) was originally developed in the 1980s by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg. Johnson found that couples in distress were caught in a dreadful dance of negative interactions that kept them stuck and unable to resolve their conflicts. Using attachment theory, she developed a treatment to help these couples in distress. Today, EFT-C is one of the most empirically validated types of couples therapy. It has been found that 70–75% of couples move from distress to recovery, and that 90% show significant improvements. These results appear to be less susceptible to relapse than those from other approach.

Emotion regulation is involved in three major motivational systems central to couples therapy: styles of attachment, identity or working models of self and other, and attraction or liking.

More recently, emotionally focused therapy has also been used with families. Emotionally focused family therapy (EFFT) uses the emotionally focused approach with families, specifically children and parents. EFFT sessions are conducted either weekly or biweekly for approximately 10–15 sessions. Because of its emotional intensity, EFFT is not recommended for all families.

Strengths of EFT

  1. EFT is collaborative and respectful of clients, combining experiential person-centered therapy techniques with systemic therapy
  2. Change strategies and interventions are specified through intensive analysis of psychotherapy process.
  3. EFT has been validated by over 20 years of empirical research. There is also research on the change processes and predictors of success.
  4. EFT has been applied to different kinds of problems and populations, although more research on different populations and cultural adaptations is needed.
  5. EFT for couples is based on conceptualizations of marital distress and adult love that are supported by empirical research on the nature of adult attachment.

Contact me if you are interested in trying this therapy. 905-518-8283

Emotionally focused therapy