What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?

Couples and families run the gamut when it comes to moments of emotional difficulty.  Normal stressors can easily become traumatic in the confines of a relationship due to the depth of emotions felt by those involved, and \can easily damage or dissolve a relationship if not properly addressed.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a method of treatment counselors employ that works dynamically with emotions in the context of the relationship. This structured approach of 8-20 sessions is empirically supported, with roots in emotion therapy and attachment theory.  Much research has been done on the efficacy of emotionally focused therapy, and studies show the 90-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvement.  As such, this relatively unknown form of therapy is a boon to couples and families, providing them a strong option for exploring, healing, and improving feelings. The aim of EFT is to repair and restore the strong bonds of attachment between families & couples.

As the name would imply, emotions are of central importance in EFT, both as an individual experience and are a basis for therapeutic change. Developed in the 1980’s by Sue Johnson and Les Greenburg, EFT holds that change occurs by means of awareness, management, contemplation, and transformation of emotion taking place within the context of an empathetically attuned relationship. This practical technique puts the therapist in a collaborative position with their patients, where they carefully guide them through exercises that ultimately bring them to a place of harmony and mutual respect.

As taken from ICEEFT, the basic principles of EFT are thus:

1. Relationships are attachment bonds. Effective therapy should address the security of the bond, accessibility and responsiveness of each partner.

2. Change involves a new experience of the self, new experience of the other and new relationship events

3. Rigid interaction patterns create and reflect absorbing emotional states. It’s systemic.

4. Emotion is the target and agent of change

5. The therapist is a process consultant

6. Partners are viewed as coping as optimally as they can given their current circumstances i.e. non-pathologizing. Partners are not sick/unskilled, they are only stuck in habitual ways of dealing with emotions

By exploring emotions, reactions, interaction, and behavior, couples & families develop a new perspective on their role and their impact on those around them. Participants in EFT are encouraged to express their feelings and experiences through structured dialogue, leading them to a place of understanding through insight into each other’s emotions. By being able to voice their deepest concerns and conflicts, the parties in a relationship are able to address them and move beyond to develop more productive and collaborative behaviors.

However, EFT isn’t for everyone.  Due to the nature of EFT, all parties involved in the structured therapy should feel safe in exposing their emotions and experiences.  In those relationships where domestic violence or chronic mental abuse is an on-going issue, EFT should be avoided and other options for individual counseling should be explored.

If you’re experiencing emotional distress in a relationship or within your family, emotionally focused therapy is a wonderful way for everyone to explore their emotions and come to a place of understanding and health.  Schedule an appointment with one of our counselors to begin the taking steps to improve the dynamics of your relationships today.

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