What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples?
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a therapeutic modality used to treat couples struggling with relationship challenges. As the name suggests, EFT is an emotion-focused approach that incorporates elements of attachment theory to get to the core of conflict. EFT centers around the premise that if we can understand the emotions affecting the individuals in a relationship, we will understand the relationship itself.
Developed by Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Leslie Greenberg Phd in 1985, Emotionally Focused Therapy integrates a systemic approach to couples counseling. Whereas previous modalities designed for couples had assigned fault or dysfunction to one or both individuals in the relationship, EFT sought to view conflicts between partners as a cyclical pattern, or system of interactions.
Over time, Dr. Johnson began incorporating elements of attachment theory into what she was testing and observing among couples in therapy. Attachment, which is an essential aspect of early development, is defined by the quality of the relationship between caregiver/parent and child. Because so many coping mechanisms, self-beliefs, and interpersonal dynamics can be traced back to what we were taught by our caregivers, later relationships in life can follow the same parallel development we sustained as children. In other words, we can get to the bottom of our feelings and experiences of our intimate relationships by examining how our early attachments formed.
EFT is a structured form of therapy that is often completed in ten to twenty sessions, or six months or less. For this reason, EFT is appealing to many couples because of its ability to target certain issues and create a pace for affecting positive, sustainable change in a relatively short time. And though EFT is a somewhat new form of therapy, initial research has shown that it is an extremely effective model for intimate relationships, and the benefits of incorporating attachment theory into couples counseling have been well documented.
Couples who seek Emotionally Focused Therapy often struggle with miscommunication, ongoing conflict, and the feeling that the needs of one or both partners are not being met in the relationship. This therapy can help guide couples as they make big decisions about their partnership, such as marriage or divorce, and EFT can also be effective in helping relationships that have been impacted by infidelity.
How Does EFT Work?
Emotionally Focused Therapy aims to facilitate a more positive and open space for communication and healing by introducing new emotions to the system of interactions within the couple. This is accomplished as a therapist or counselor walks the couple through the three stages of EFT therapy.
The first step, de-escalation, is used to help couples understand how negative dynamics in their relationship have been perpetuated. As the initial stage of therapy, it gives the clinician a chance to observe the problem in real-time and provide an unbiased perspective to help reframe presenting issues or conflicts in more productive and less harmful terms. Once couples have mastered this step, each partner will ideally be able to take a step back from the relationship to gain an objective understanding of the breakdown occurring between themself and their partner, rather than simply seeing their own perspective on the matter.
The second step of EFT therapy is restructuring interaction. The restructuring element is meant to help couples create new emotional experiences and opportunities for bonding. And as new interactions between the couple develop, each person in the relationship will feel seen, heard, and more secure. As a result, the couple will be able to open up as they become more vulnerable and understanding of one another’s experiences.
And the last step of Emotionally Focused Therapy is the consolidation stage. This is where couples begin to move beyond the problem and create a more solid and functioning relationship. An EFT therapist will guide each partner in applying newly developed communication skills and tactics for problem-solving. The idea is that by this stage in therapy, the couple will be more proactive than reactive, having worked through the three central tenets of EFT.
Because EFT maintains a process with a clear beginning, middle, and end, couples tend to respond positively to the structured nature of this modality. In addition, since attachment theory is frequently incorporated into Emotionally Focused Therapy, couples often feel that EFT gives them an opportunity to start from the very beginning with their significant other; offering a chance for a newfound and refreshed perspective. And typically, individuals participating in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples complete the process with a better internal awareness of themselves.
How New Beginnings Psych Can Help
We at New Beginnings Psych use EFT for our couples therapy sessions with both partners present. While there are other effective methods for conflict de-escalation in couples counseling, we find that EFT is well suited for our particular clientele. Because this modality relies so heavily on attachment theory, EFT allows individuals to process adverse, negative, or traumatic experiences that likely occurred well before the formation of the relationship. EFT’s extensive and thorough nature creates a space for sustainable and meaningful change in regard to both individual’s experience and within the partnership.
While our preference for couples is Emotionally Focused Therapy, we will also incorporate elements of object relations theory, as well as person-centered and humanistic therapeutic approaches. Our eclectic style including reflection on child developmental stages and interactions with families of origin ensures that all EFT therapy sessions are tailored to fit the needs of each unique couple and the individuals within it.
Emotionally Focused Therapy provides couples with the opportunity to solve, once and for all, the problems that have long been plaguing their relationship. Thanks to EFT, our clients at New Beginnings Psych have been given a chance to reprocess negative experiences and interactions in a way that fosters mutual understanding and respect for one another, reinvigorating relationships with a sense of connectedness.
Get To The Core Of Your Relationship Issues
If you and your partner have experienced setbacks or ongoing conflicts in the relationship, Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples at New Beginnings Psych can provide you with the clarity and perspective needed to find a resolution. For more information about what we can do for you or to schedule your first appointment, please contact us.