WHAT IS EFT – EMOTIONALLY FOCUSED THERAPY FOR COUPLES?
My approach to working with couples known as Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, EFT, is based on clear, explicit conceptualizations of marital distress and adult love. EFT is a structured approach to couples therapy formulated by Dr. Sue Johnson. It is a 3 Stage, 9 Step approach that is also used with individuals and families. EFT is a collaborative approach, respectful of each individual.
A substantial body of research outlining the effectiveness of EFT now exists. Research studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements. EFT is being used in many different settings all over the world: in private practice, university training centers, veterans hospitals, and clinics, and with diverse cultural groups. The couples treated include partners suffering from depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorders, and chronic illness.
EFT focuses on the emotional experience of each person in the relationship and the pattern of communication between them. Other types of marital counseling will often focus on trying to solve the particular conflict that a couple is struggling with, or focus on behavior change and teaching communication skills. In EFT, we help the couple to increase their understanding and appreciation for how they and their partner feels in order to build trust and a secure base they can each rely on.
In this approach, couples learn to:
- recognize the negative cycle they are stuck in, where one person criticizes and the other responds defensively or withdraws.
- identify the needs and fears that keep them in that cycle.
- identify and express their underlying emotions.
- empathize with each other and become more supportive of each other.
- come together through the emotional needs they are each expressing, and begin to comfort and respond to each other’s needs.
When couples are in conflict, most often they fall into the very common pattern of pursue/withdraw. One person, in an effort to reach their partner goes into pursuit/blame, and the other will defend/criticize and withdraw emotionally and/or physically. This may sound familiar to you because it is so common. In fact it is wired in through evolutionary survival strategies. In EFT we help you to understand these reactive, fear driven patterns, have compassion for how you can get caught in them, and join together to fight against this negative pattern instead of fighting each other. Relational distress is not about how many arguments or fights you have but whether you are able to hold onto an emotional connection during conflicts and repair.
Until a couple is able to identify, acknowledge and ultimately forgive injuries, an emotional gulf persists between them. No matter how dissatisfying things have become and how unhappy or angry partners may be, they each need to feel safe in coming together to work out their problems. Each partner needs to understand the emotions dictating their actions. The emotions behind perceived problems are the key to understanding each other. The focus of EFT is to help partner’s to understand more clearly each other’s deepest emotions. We get to the heart of the matter.