What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Therapy is Research-Based

Research shows that EFT moves couples from distress to recovery in 12-20 sessions for 70-75% of couples and creates improvements in 90% of couples.  You should notice an improvement after 10-12 sessions. It can take longer if either of you has a history of trauma. It has been used in many diverse settings with various types of couples in different stages of the life cycle.  It has even been shown to improve symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and chronic illness.

Who Can Benefit from Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Therapy was developed by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg who have been studying and researching couples since the 1990’s.  It is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, which concluded that we all have an innate need to feel close to others.  Just as a baby needs to be close to its mother in order to survive, adults need someone to turn to and rely on emotionally throughout the entire life span (from the cradle to the grave).

  1. Love is a survival code regulating our sense of danger.  The template for the way we love is the bond with our first caregiver.
  2. We are better together.  Loving and being loved makes you stronger.
  3. Emotional attunement and responsiveness is the key to safe haven bonding.  Both partners can reach and respond.
  4. The wired-in moves that make up the typical dance of love are positive (mutual reaching and responding) and less positive (pushing and demanding to try to reconnect or turning away to numb hurt and limit increasing disconnection).

Emotionally Focused Therapy and the Four Laws of Love

Unfortunately, many of us live without this connection.  We may not have had a secure bond with our parents or may have faced other emotionally traumatic experiences on our own, while growing up.  We may have endured attachment-related injuries as adults such as an affair.  These kinds of experiences make it difficult for us to trust others and can have a negative impact on the way we see ourselves as well.

In relationships with partners, we often end up in negative interaction patterns or escalating vicious cycles, which can become more entrenched and rigid over time.  When stressed, we engage in a “fight” (complain and demand) or “flight” (shut down, numb out and withdraw) response.  We get stuck in a feedback loop fueled by the negative emotions.  We fear rejection and abandonment and feel more and more helpless to fix things.  We end up feeling defensive, angry, afraid and alone. 

The therapist helps couples to turn their relationships into safe havens (to run towards when in distress) and secure bases (from which to go out and explore the world).  Couples become more emotionally accessible, responsive and engaged with one another.  They learn to trust that their partners will be there for them when needed.  Once you feel like you’re on the same page or the same team, effective communication and problem solving happen more naturally.

Imagine that you and your partner are dancing together.  The music is not enjoyable which makes the dancing rather difficult and painful.  In EFT, the music for the dance is emotion.  The therapist helps you to change the music (emotion) so that the dancing (relationship) becomes easier and more pleasurable. 

EFT provides a structured map for the therapist to follow.  The map includes three stages and nine steps.  The therapist focuses on the feedback loops that occur within and between couples right during the session.  Couples learn to identify their negative cycle and exit from it more easily.  They learn to develop safety, trust, acceptance, compassion and respect for themselves and one another.  Couples learn how to talk about their problems in a new way that draws them closer together.  We learn how to create and shape love. 

“Love is no longer a mystery...We are born to connect...Emotional responsiveness is the key to secure bonding...Love can last long term if we learn how to connect emotionally...Partners who have this safe emotional connection have better sex because when you’re safe, you can play...Every challenge you face together makes the bond of trust and love between you stronger.”  - Sue Johnson

Emotionally Focused Therapy Helps

How Does Emotionally Focused Therapy Work?

New life, growth, strength & peace ... for your couple bond.