Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
EFT is a short-term treatment approach for couples that focuses on reconnection between partners. EFT was developed by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg and is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment research that was published over 50 years ago. Attachment theory is based on the innate need that humans and higher primate animals appear to have to feel attached to and comforted by significant others.
Adult attachment relationships are believed to have the same survival function as the mother-child bond, since ideally these attachments can provide the same love, comfort, support and protection throughout the life span. However, due to our relationship histories, and the negative interaction cycles we get into with our partners, many of us have difficulties with trust and expressing emotion to those who mean the most to us.
When couples argue about issues such as jealously, sex or money, the origins of these arguments are usually based in one partner feeling not connected, not trusting, or not safe or secure with the other partner. When those we are attached to are not available, or are not responding to our needs to feel close or supported we feel distressed. We may become anxious or fearful, numb or distant.
These behaviors can become habitual or rigid modes of reacting to our partners. Furthermore, these toxic behavior patterns seem to take on a life of their own as they cycle into repetitive couple’s interactions that cause much pain, injury and despair. EFT gives us an understanding of the core issues behind these patterns and helps us work on changing these negative interaction cycles in a non-judgmental environment.
In a relatively short time, couples begin to recognize and eventually express their needs for love, support, protection and comfort that are often hidden or disguised by the harsh or angry words used in conflict or arguments with each other. Partners begin to “listen with the heart,” - one of the cornerstones of EFT – which means listening not for the literal meaning of a partner’s words, but for the feelings that lie beneath. In return, the other partner is better able to respond from their heart in kind. This is the emotional focus of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
When utilizing EFT, we help you build “a safe haven” in your relationship as our primary task, as the foundation of the work to focus on your primary needs – to feel close, secure and responded to –which probably underlie most of your couple’s conflict.
Once this safe haven and feelings of connection are reestablished, you will be better able to manage conflict and the painful or difficult feelings that will inevitably arise from time to time in a close relationship. Furthermore, without so much defensiveness, each of you will be able to send clearer messages and will be better able to hear the other’s perspective. You will be better able to collaborate, problem-solve and compromise – in short – you will be more of a team – which is the secret of a long-lived, successful marriage.
Research on the success of EFT
EFT appears to move couples from distress to recovery for 70 to 75% of the cases, and creates improvements in 90% of the couples coming in for therapy. EFT has been used with many different types of couples in private practice, university training centers and hospital clinics. These distressed couples include partners suffering from disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress and chronic illness.
For more information about EFT, visit The International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy.