What is Emotion-Focused Therapy?
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a short-term form of therapy that focuses on adult relationships and attachment/bonding. The Psychologist and Patients look at patterns in the relationship and take steps to create a more secure bond and develop more trust to move the relationship in a healthier, more positive direction.
A psychologist who utilizes EFT observes the dynamics between Patients in the therapy setting, ties this behavior to the dynamics in their home lives, and helps direct new conversations and interactions based on more honest feelings. To accomplish this, your Psychologist will encourage you to look at your current emotional issues and then help you discover feelings and emotions that you may not realize you have. You may discover deeper past feelings and vulnerabilities that are blocked by the more immediate emotions you display in your current relationship. You will learn to express these emotions in a way that will help you connect, rather than disconnect with your partner or family member. You will learn new ways to listen and stay attuned to another’s emotions and discover more productive ways to respond to emotional situations.
EFT focuses on the present time to makes changes in the here and now. There are three steps, or stages, of EFT. The first is to de-escalate the couple’s or family member’s negative cycle of interactions, and help them see and understand what is happening in their relationship. Patients come to see that the problems lie in insecurities and distance. The next stage is to restructure interactions, wherein the Psychologist helps Patients discuss their fears in the relationship, using language that doesn’t push the other away. Patients learn to turn toward each other and discuss their needs and they become more open and responsive to each other. Consolidation is the third stage of EFT, wherein the Psychologist helps Patients see how they got into negative patterns and points out how they were able to change those patterns and can continue these types of conversations in the future.
EFT is grounded in science. A substantial body of research outlining the effectiveness of this treatment exists. It is now considered one of the most (if not the most) empirically validated forms of couples’ therapy. Research studies have found that 70-75% of couples undergoing EFT successfully move from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvements. This recovery is also quite stable and lasting, with little evidence of relapse back into distress.
EFT is being used with many different kinds of couples in private practice, university training centers, and hospital clinics. It is also quite useful with various cultural groups throughout the world. The distressed couples who may benefit from EFT include those where one or both partners suffer from depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorders, and chronic illness, among other disorders. EFT has proven to be a powerful approach for couples dealing with infidelity or other more traumatic incidents, both current and past.
- Source: Wiebe SA, Johnson SM. A review of the research in emotionally focused therapy for couples. Family Process. September 2016;55(3):390-407.