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Emotionally Focused Therapy [EFT] for Couples


Emotionally focused therapy or EFT therapy is a holistic approach toward dealing with relationship distress.

This manualize therapy is based on sound research and clinical practice. It is considered to be one of the most effective therapies for distressed couples according to the American Psychological Association. EFT therapy is said to have a 75% rate of success in the treatment of distressed couples. After undergoing the therapy, 86% couples have reported feeling happier and the results are said to last longer when compared to other therapies.

What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally focused therapy was developed by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg.

The basis of EFT therapy lies in John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. According to this theory, higher primates and humans have an inborn need to be comforted by the people they love and care for and feel the need to be attached and connected to them.

In EFT therapy, emotions play the central role in the interactions between a couple.

Emotionally focused couples therapy, encourages people to talk about their emotions and discuss related topics during the therapy sessions.

It focuses on restructuring emotional bonds between the couple to strengthen their attachment.

Emotional responses help fulfill a person’s needs. Thus, the final goal of EFT therapy is to make the person more aware of their emotions. Emotions are consider to be the agent of change and are particularly target.


Styles of attachment:

According to Johnson & Sims (2000), there are four styles of adult attachment:

1. Secure and trusting people

a. They view themselves as lovable and are able to trust their partner. They send clear emotional signals and they are flexible, engaged and resourceful in relationships without clarity.
b. Secure partners are able to express their feelings, articulate their needs and allow their vulnerability to be revealed.

2. People with a decreased ability to vocalise their feelings

a. They do not acknowledge their need for attachment and have trouble with naming their needs in a relationship.
b. They prefer to take a safe position and solve their problems from that distance, without realising the effect it has on their partner.

3. Psychologically reactive people

a. They display anxious attachment.
b. They demand reassurance aggressively and demand their partner’s attachment.
c. They use strategies such as emotional blackmail to engage their partner.

4. Traumatised people

a. They have had very little recovery from the traumatic incident.
b. Thus, they hover between attachment and hostility.

What can EFT Therapy Cure?

Emotionally focused therapy can treat many different disorders. Here is a list of the major ailments that can be tackled with this therapy:

  • Adverse effects of abuse
  • Addictions
  • Dealing with anger
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Weight loss
  • Pain management
  • Overcoming exam-related nervousness

EFT therapy can be used to treat many disorders and while it may not produce any useful results, it will not cause any damage.

Also Read: 11 Best Tips for Sleep Better

Is EFT therapy safe?

When conducted by a competent therapist, EFT therapy can be safe and successful. Certain conditions can be dealt with in a better way by a qualified therapist than a non-skilled person.

  • Intense emotions
  • When and if the problem deepens
  • Avoidance of the “ankle point” when the subject is pregnant

EFT as a Complementary Therapy

EFT therapy is a complementary therapy and cannot be used to replace medical advice. It combines experiential and systemic approaches and focuses on two approaches:

1. Intrapsychic processes: Deals with how a couple processes its emotional experiences.
2. Interpersonal processes: Deals with how couples organise their interactions into patterns and cycles.

According to the premise of EFT therapy, relationship distress occurs due to emotional disconnection and unfulfilled attachment needs. When one partner feels that the other is unavailable, critical, rejecting or unresponsive, they resort to emotional regulation strategies. These strategies unwittingly drag out or even intensify the relationship troubles. Thus, the attachment bond becomes weaker.

Emotional regulation strategies include anxiously blaming and making demands, or withdrawing and stonewalling.

There are 3 stages of EFT therapy: Stress and anxiety

Stage One: De-escalation:

The therapist helps the partners observe their negative cycle mindfully: the rejection and abandonment thus created as a common enemy. The therapist shows how the couple can work together to curb these feelings.

Stage Two: Restructuring:

The therapist helps partners work together and share their attachment fears and longings. Gradually, they are helped to find ways in which they can express them clearly to one another. This encourages closeness, emotional accessibility and responsiveness. Thus, it leads to the formation of a more secure bond.

Stage Three: Consolidation:

In this stage, the therapist helps the couple consolidate the gains from the treatment they have received.

Emotionally focused couples therapy consists of 10 sessions, each with a specific goal.

Session 1
  • Familiarising with the couple.
  • Creating a cooperative therapeutic alliance.
  • Exploring interaction potential.
  • Evaluating attachment problems.
Session 2

Meeting each partner separately to obtain information that will not be shared in a joint session by the couple.

Session 3
  • Identifying interaction patterns.
  • Identifying emotional responses that create these patterns.
Session 4

Reconstruction and development of the bond between the couple.

Session 5

Intensifying emotional interactions between couples on the basis of attachment needs.

Session 6

Expanding self in association with others.

Session 7
  • Reconstructing interactions.
  • Changing events.
  • Clarifying the needs and requests of the couple.
Session 8

Finding fresh solutions to existing problems.

Session 9

Adopting therapeutic achievements for everyday life.
Engage the couple in friendly relations.

Session 10
  • Facilitating the closure of the therapy sessions.
  • Identifying differences between the earlier negative interactions and the new constructive meetings.

A qualified and competent therapist discusses issues such as discovering attachment insecurity and the fears of the couple, clarifying the emotional key response, developing the emotional experience of couples, intensifying the individual relationship with emotional experience, intensifying emotional struggles, identifying the basic fears and finally encouraging a secure attachment during the therapy sessions.

Side-effects of EFT Therapy:

EFT therapy has no known side effects and is considered to be quite safe. If in case, it does not cure the problem, it will cause no harm or further damage either. Hence, most people are advise to go for EFT therapy.

Results of EFT Therapy:

EFT therapy gains are realise at the end of the sessions. Even for couples who are at high risk of relapse, it is find out that they remain stable for two to three years. The focus of EFT therapy is on the following aspects:

  • Fortifying adult attachment bonds.
  • Accentuating trust, interdependence, and security and soothing.

EFT therapy is also successful in couples where either partner has a history of childhood sexual abuse, severe depression or even breast cancer.

Social relationships are closely associate with one’s health and overall well-being. It has been observe that social relationships can even help regulate vital emotional functions by reducing threat-related neural activity.

Relationship distress is still a major public health problem in North America and in other places. The current divorce rate among first marriages is around 40%.

Intense relationship distress in a marriage can impair social, psychological, physical and occupational functioning. EFT therapy has been shown to be superior to behaviour marital therapy and around 70%-73% couples are no longer distressed at the end of the therapy sessions.

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