A Proven Approach to Building Loving Relationships That Last
Whether you’re looking to keep a romantic relationship strong, or repair a relationship that appears to be headed for the rocks, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an approach that’s been proven to be highly effective in building relationships that last.
What is EFT?
“EFT is a well-known humanistic approach to psychotherapy formulated in the 1980’s and developed in tandem with the science of adult attachment, a profound developmental theory of personality and intimate relationships”*.
Historically, attachment theory relates to how infants attach to their mothers and then relate similarly to others. EFT expands on that concept by looking at how attachment applies in adult relationships and creates the foundation of how we understand love.
It focuses on how our interpersonal interactions get organized into patterns and cycles. Many forms of couples therapy focus on providing tools, scripts, and skills to improve communication. Good communication is an essential part of a strong relationship, but is often the first casualty when emotions become too intense and we fall back into old patterns of behaviour. EFT looks to pull back the curtain and discover the reasons why and how we develop patterns in the first place- and then interrupt those patterns.
An EFT therapist is someone who can be characterized as being hands-on, not a passive observer, and one who works with a couple to open up the possibilities of their relationship. An EFT therapist doesn’t act as a coach, but more like a process consultant and collaborator.
What is the Goal of EFT?
The ultimate goal of emotionally focused therapy is to create new ways of relating to your partner, and create a new sense of self, thus evoking new responses from your partner. Dr. Sue Johnson, primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT), realized that many popular relationship therapies all but ignored the important role emotions play in relationships. However, EFT prioritizes emotion and emotional regulation and sees these as essential to organizing an individual’s experience and as primary influencers in their relationship interactions.
EFT focuses on and changing core ways that an individual relates to themselves and others especially in key relationships. It recognizes that emotions contribute to how we see ourselves and are an important part of our daily lives. While there are other forms of therapy which focus on emotions, the emphasis on creating a secure attachment to another is what sets emotionally focused therapy apart.
As I mentioned earlier, EFT works to pull back the curtain and find the reasons why we develop certain patterns of behaviour with the goal of interrupting those patterns and creating a new healthy relational cycle.
There are three goals for EFT*
- Increase awareness of emotion, understand and re-organize the key emotional responses – these are the emotional responses which drive the interactional dance with others. If we were to only focus on communication techniques, this would be insufficient. Instead we focus on emotional regulation.
- Expand and re-shape both the clients’ core sense of self and how they respond to others in the dance of relationship. In this we aim to enhance emotional regulation by repairing and restructuring the bond.
- Enable emotional balance and coherence, individually and relationally – a sense of competence and worth and the ability to be open, responsive and engaged with another in such a way as to build and nurture a secure bond. A secure bond naturally fosters resilience and empowerment for both.
Understanding, or reasoning, that an emotion should be transformed is not enough. Like the old adage says, you have to fight fire with fire. In other words, emotion must be transformed with emotion.
To sum it all up, the aim of EFT is to give you an awareness of your emotions and equip you with strategies that help you regulate, transform and organise those emotions so you can relate successfully; and reshape the emotional bond between yourself and another, such that it will deepen and grow naturally.
Who Can Benefit from EFT?
It’s true that emotionally focused therapy began as a form of couples therapy, but the principles of EFT have been applied with great success in other therapy modes as well. It’s been used to address individual depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress. In fact, EFT can be used to help many people.
- Individuals who find it difficult to express their emotions in a healthy way to their partner.
- Children who frequently witness arguing or fighting between their loved ones.
- Couples who are harbouring negative thoughts and feelings toward each other.
- Newly blended families.
- Families affected by divorce.
- High-stress clients, such as military couples, veterans with PTSD, or families with a chronically ill family member.
Emotionally focused therapy de-escalates the negative cycle, restructures bonding, and integrates the positive cycle. Individuals and couples alike report that their relationships are more loving and resilient after going through the EFT process.
Does EFT Work?
You may be thinking, “All of this information is great, and it even makes sense, but does it really work?”
It’s understandable if you have some scepticism. Historically, couples therapy is only about 30% effective. And by effective I mean that, after therapy, couples went on to re-establish intimacy and trust in their relationship.
Thankfully, there is now a substantial amount of research and empirical evidence indicating that EFT is 70-75% effective in moving couples from distress to recovery. An astounding 90% of couples report experiencing significant improvements. EFT is the best validated and most effective approach to helping couples move from a situation filled with anxiety to a relationship that is filled with bonding and love.
“EFT for couples is the gold standard for empirically validated intervention in this field” [of couple therapy] iceeft.com
Are You Ready?
If you’ve read this far and you want to know if EFT can help you, perhaps something is not going the way you would like in your relationship? Perhaps there has been a specific breach of trust or maybe there is a pattern of relating which is grinding away at your bond and distance or conflict is increasing.
I have worked with EFT in new relationships and relationships of 40 years. Over and over great shifts occur, healing bonds and increasing closeness. I assist people both in-person in Melbourne or Online.
If you’d like to take another step. It’s easier than you might imagine – just use this link to select a time for an Introductory Session. Let’s meet in a video call and find out if EFT could be a match for you!
*(adapted from iceeft.com)