"In EFT we don't heal relationships. We create relationships that heal."
- Dr. Sue Johnson, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a structured treatment approach whose goal is the repair and reconnection between partners. EFT, developed by Drs. Susan Johnson and Les Greenberg, is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment research that began over 50 years ago. Bowlby found that humans and higher primate animals appeared to have an innate need to feel attached to and comforted by a significant other. Adult attachment relationships are believed to have the same role as the mother-child bond. Ideally these attachments can provide the same love, comfort, support, and protection throughout the lifespan. However, due to our relationship histories and the negative interaction cycles we get into with our partners, it is common to have difficulties with trust and expressing emotion to those who mean the most to us.
When couples argue about issues such as jealousy, sex, or money, the origins of these arguments are usually some form of protest from one partner about not feeling connected or not feeling 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 ways of reacting to our partners. Also, these behavior patterns seem to take on a life of their own as they cycle into repetitive interactions that cause pain, injury, and despair. In EFT, we focus on these patterns and work on changing these negative cycles in a safe environment.
In therapy, couples begin to recognize and eventually express their needs for love, support, protection, and comfort that are often hidden or disguised by the harsh and angry words used in the repetitive self-defeating patterns of conflicts or arguments with each other. Partners begin to “listen with the heart”- one of the cornerstones of EFT. This 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 also better able to respond from the heart. This the emotional focus of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
We view the building of “a safe haven” in your relationship as our primary task, and we will focus on your primary needs - to feel close, secure, and responded to. 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. With less 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’ll be more of a team - which is the secret of a long-lived successful love relationship!
Research on the success of EFT: EFT appears to move couples from distress to recovery in 70-75% of cases, and created improvements in 90% of couples coming in for therapy. EFT has been used with many different challenges 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 references, recent articles describing EFT therapy and books on EFT, please refer to the EFT website: www.iceeft.com.