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What Is Emotional Focused Therapy

How Did Eft Come To Be What Types Of Philosophies Inform Eft

What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (or EFT)?

Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Les Greenberg founded EFT in the early 1980s as a response to the lack of clearly defined and validated couples interventions. Dr. Johnson describes Emotionally Focused Therapy as being influenced by the Attachment Theory of John Bowlby, the Humanistic/Experiential Theory of Carl Rogers, and Structural Theories of Salvador Minuchin. In her book, Creating Connection, Johnson imagines, âEFT is a reflection of the kind of conversation that experiential therapist Carl Rogers and structural systems therapists, such as Minuchin or others, might have had if they had discussed a case of relationship distress over tea.â

To save you a lot of reading, Iâll hit one major takeaway from each of those theories:

What Is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Emotionally Focused Couples therapy is based on the assumption that secure bonds between individuals in a relationship are created by accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement. We all have basic needs of safety, love and comfort, or âattachment needs.â These attachment needs are adaptive and need validation. Partners can get stuck in rigid patterns with each other and react based on how they were raised and their attachment style. Partners can also get limited with their options to respond in the moment, during a conflict because they get triggered by their significant other, based on their attachment style and need.

EFT uses emotion as the key to open the door to look at attachment behaviors and to create lasting change. Ultimately the goal of EFT is to create emotional engagement and new deeper bonding between partners.

Emotionally Focused Couples therapy was founded by Dr. Sue Johnson and she is the leading proponent of EFT for couples.

EFT is a present-focused process which guides you into your emotions by focusing on them and validating them. Couples EFT also works with each personâs position in their relationship and the structure of their relationship. The key in emotionally focused couples therapy is to shape positive bonding interactions in the moment, removning blocks and dealing with emotional injuries, risks and fears.

How It Compares To Other Approaches

Other popular therapy models, like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy also help with emotional regulation. However, Johnson says EFT tends to focus more on exploring your emotions in the present than the other two modalities.

CBT may have more benefit when you experience distorted thinking that affects your mood and behavior. DBT, on the other hand, may be a better fit if you experience frequent impulsivity or intense shifts in mood.

Therapy type
Striking a balance between acceptance and change can help you manage strong emotions. You practice accepting and regulating difficult or painful emotions.

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How An Emotionally Focused Approach Informs Other Therapeutic Methods

EFT can be beneficial alongside other therapeutic approaches used for both individuals and couples.

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy adds to cognitive therapies and behavioral methodssuch as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . CBT can help clients see the useful and constructive aspects of certain emotions.
  • EFT informs a psychoanalytical approach because it focuses on the here and now of the emotion as opposed to the why underneath it.
  • EFT emphasizes the self and importance of past relationships. Thus enhancing interpersonal psychoanalytic approaches.
  • And finally, EFT is specifically engineered to work alongside attachment-focused therapy. Understanding the influence of early relationships on clients connection to themselves and others makes the core emotion more easily identified.

What Are The Stages Of Emotion Focused Therapy

Emotionally focused Therapy by Erin Coleman

There are typically three phases and nine steps of emotion focused therapy. The first phase is made up of four steps: identifying the conflict, identify the cycle where the conflict is expressed, access unacknowledged emotions, and reframe the argument so that the victims work together. The second phase is made up of three steps: promote identification of disowned needs, promote partner acceptance, and facilitate expression of needs and wants. Finally, the third phase is made up of the final two steps: new solutions and consolidation of the previous steps. This type of therapy can help people learn new ways to treat emotions and situations, as well as deal with mental health concerns. Emotion coaching, under emotion focused therapy eft, is a clinical psychology strategy meant to help a person tackle emotional experiences and learn to overcome challenges associated with understanding their emotions.

What does psychodynamic therapy focus on?

What are the 3 types of therapy?

What can EFT help with?

Can EFT cure anxiety?

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Emotionally Focused Therapy Theory

The theory that guided the development of this therapy is the attachment theory. It has been found that a person is healthier through emotional contact and when he or she feels safe in the interactions that they have with others. This therapy is based on the idea that issues in relationships are often surrounding feelings of abandonment and how the individual reacts to these fears. This can cause conflict in the relationship and also cause issues with intimacy and trust.

One of the main focuses of this therapy is to help the individual overcome the insecurities that are present. In doing this an individual can reduce negative reactions, conflict, and strengthen the attachment of the relationship.

What Is Eft For

EFTs goal is to help you work on your emotions and ability to emotionally regulate as a way to improve your personal relationships. This is based on attachment theory.

Attachment theory proposes that the bond you established with your primary caregivers as a baby impacts how you interact and bond with others as an adult.

But this attachment style you developed from your early experiences can change.

Working on regulating your reactions to intense emotions is one way to do so.

In that case, you could go from insecure to secure attachments, for example.

An insecure attachment style in relationships may lead you to:

  • avoid emotional intimacy

On the other hand, a secure attachment style may mean you:

  • trust others and yourself in relationships
  • confront and resolve conflict well
  • openly express how you feel
  • pause before you react when experiencing intense emotions

Emotionally focused therapy could help you move from insecure attachments to more secure ones. If youre unsure what your attachment style is, you can check out Psych Centrals Attachment Style Quiz to find out.

During therapy, you may be asked to confront uncomfortable aspects of your relationship. This can result in emotionally charged situations and conversations.

But if you or your partner arent completely open to the EFT experience, it may not be fully effective.

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Gottman Method Vs Eft

The Gottman method is a form of couples therapy. It teaches couples how to communicate in healthy ways so they can avoid the four horsemen of the relational apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Emotionally focused couples therapy and the Gottman method are both great options for couples who need help learning how to better understand one another. However, only EFT can be adapted for individual and family therapy.

Techniques Used In Emotion

What is Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)?

EFT sessions typically center around the development of two key skills. These are:

  • Arriving at one’s emotions through increased awareness and acceptance.
  • Learning to transform emotions and better use the information they provide to avoid negative or harmful behaviors or other effects of certain emotions.
  • Therapists practicing this method take a compassionate, non-judgmental, and reflective approach to listening and questioning. This allows the person in therapy come to a better understanding of their emotions. Then, various therapeutic techniques known as emotion coaching are utilized. These help people learn new ways to use healthy emotions to guide their actions. Emotion coaching may further help people transform and move on from challenging emotions.

    Initial sessions of therapy focus on helping people arrive at emotions. One or more of the following goals are often included in each session:

    • Become more aware of emotions
    • Learn to welcome, allow, and regulate emotions
    • Learn to describe emotions clearly and in detail
    • Increase awareness of the multiple layers of emotional experiences and learn to identify the most direct reaction

    The next phase of treatment focuses on leaving. It may include the following goals:

    EFT is generally thought to have been successful when the person in treatment has an increased awareness of their emotional experience. They may also have an improved ability to regulate emotions and be better able to transform unhelpful emotions.

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    What Is Emotion Focused Therapy Used For

    Emotion focused therapy, or process experiential therapy, is one of the most common therapeutic strategies used to treat mental health challenges and relationship problems. This experiential approach leads therapists and clients towards awareness, acceptance, and expression of emotion. It is also used to educate and create accurate and correct emotional responses to situations when a client doesnt seem to have an understanding of their emotions or reactions. This type of therapy uses emotions to guide treatment and the goals are strengthening the self and creating new meaning in cognitive behavioral thinking.

    Other Versions Of Eft For Individuals

    Brubacher proposed an emotionally focused approach to individual therapy that focuses on attachment, while integrating the experiential focus of empathic attunement for engaging and reprocessing emotional experience and tracking and restructuring the systemic aspects and patterns of emotion regulation. The therapist follows the attachment model by addressing deactivating and hyperactivating strategies. Individual therapy is seen as a process of developing secure connections between therapist and client, between client and past and present relationships, and within the client. Attachment principles guide therapy in the following ways: forming the collaborative therapeutic relationship, shaping the overall goal for therapy to be that of “effective dependency” upon one or two safe others, depathologizing emotion by normalizing separation distress responses, and shaping change processes. The change processes are: identifying and strengthening patterns of emotion regulation, and creating corrective emotional experiences to transform negative patterns into secure bonds.

    In Greenberg and Goldman’s approach, the emphasis is on working with core issues related to identity and promoting both self-soothing and other-soothing for a better relationship, in addition to interactional change. In Johnson’s approach, the primary goal is to reshape attachment bonds and create “effective dependency” .

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    What Happens In An Emotionally Focused Therapy Session

    When using this therapy approach there are three different phases that are present throughout the therapy sessions. The first phase is the assess and de-escalation phase. The goal of this phase is to work to uncover the underlying emotional problems and begin to change the way that the clients perceive these problems. Many times when a person responds to things in a negative or reactive manner it is due to underlying feelings and emotions. Identifying and overcoming these underlying feelings is imperative to improve relationships. Phase two is the change events phase. This phase is focused on creating new and more appropriate emotional experiences to replace the negative experiences that were present in the past. This phase works on communication and developing more appropriate communication skills needed to effectively express feelings and emotions. The final phase is the consolidation of the change phase. This phase works to wrap up the sessions by resolving old conflicts and problems and developing a plan for continued positive changes after the therapy process is over.

    Discover The Basis Of Your Arguments:

    emotion scheme

    One of the most crucial aspects of Emotionally Focused Therapy is that it can explain potential disconnections that could be driving you and your significant other into arguments and distress.

    According to attachment theory, your basic emotional needs require that you feel loved, valued, and understood by your partner in order to experience a deep emotional connection with one another.

    If an emotional distance is unaddressed, and allowed to worsen over time, the buildup of emotional anguish can lead to you or your partner feeling vulnerable and alone. When these feelings arise, tension, arguing, and avoidance are more prominent in your relationship.

    Many cases of emotional disconnection are a result of communication issues within your relationship. Since EFT takes a non-linear approach to thinking and exploring emotional patterns exhibited by you or your partner, it can help you identify your emotions individually, and as a couple. In turn, EFT can improve your emotional connection and communication as a couple.

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    What Should I Expect In An Eft Session

    Therapy using EFT begins with a typical intake during which the individual or couple will discuss presenting symptoms, conflicts, and history.

    The EFT therapist will then use sessions to facilitate the feeling of emotionsincluding the unpleasant onesdirecting clients to verbalize the physical and emotional reactions they experience.

    Using this approach, clients will be encouraged to identify their patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. And as strong emotional reactions and intense feelings are processed, clients gain clarity about the patterns that create distress and conflict.

    Unpleasant emotions stemming from trauma experiences may be challenging to work with at the outset of therapy. For these situations our clinicians may use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing before introducing EFT into sessions. EMDR gently targets trauma responses stored in the brain to help our clients feel calmer and in control of their reactions.

    Take our emotion regulation quiz and find out.

    Eft Can Solve Major Issues

    Emotionally focused therapy can be used to solve the following issues:

    • Mistrust and betrayal, especially in cases where infidelity has been a problem in the past
    • Lack of intimacy in marriage. There is a considerable number of couples who are no longer intimate with their partners and make use of EFT to solve their issues so that they can create stronger bonds between them
    • Family issues such as finances, parenting of children, divorce, etc.
    • Individuals who are unable to control their feelings because of personality and mood disorders or past trauma
    • People with borderline personality disorders, in particular, can learn new ways of expressing themselves and the best ways of interacting with the community at large

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    The Three Stages Of Eft

    The EFT model of change consists of three stages. Stage 1 is to clarify your emotional patterns and focus on trying to sort out your emotions. Stage 2 is to incorporate new emotional experiences in therapy sessions to create new strategies to engage with yourself, others and life in general. Stage 3 is to reinforce your newfound confidence in understanding your emotions and apply it to the situational problems and relationships in everyday life.

    How Does Emotionally Focused Therapy Work

    What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

    Emotionally focused therapy is basically a map that helps you know where you are and where you are going.

    EFT has three stages.

    In emotionally-focused couples therapy, the first stage begins with working with the negative interactional cycle between the partners. The sessions involve learning to recognize this cycle, learn individual positions in the cycle and learn to exit the cycle, as soon as the person realizes they are in the cycle.

    Stage 2 promotes awareness of previously unseen needs and aspects of oneself that lead to strengthening the negative cycle. This stage also promotes acceptance of each partnerâs experience and creating new responses towards each other. Acceptance helps partners directly express their needs. In turn, the need to create emotional engagement and new bonding comes to light.

    Stage 3 is to continue to create new solutions to the old negative patterns, thereby developing new cycles of closeness and safe attachment.

    This model is based on John Bowlbyâs attachment theory: âAttachment theory emphasizes that adultâs desire for comfort and support in adversity should not be regarded as childish or immature dependence instead it should be respected as being an intrinsic part of human nature that contributes to personal health and well-being.â . EFT stresses that secure attachment offers a safe haven it says,âI will be there for youâ.

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    Can Eft Work With Different Populations

    With increasing globalisation, immigration and changing attitudes towards mental health, today’s populations are becoming increasingly diverse. EFT is found to be beneficial for diverse populations and for clients ranging from different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities, older couples, consensually non-monogamous couples and same-sex couples.

    What Is Eft And Why Should Couples See An Eft Therapist For Couples Counseling

    EFT, or emotionally focused therapy, is a short-term, structured approach to couples therapy that primarily focuses on adult attachment and bonding. EFT was developed and refined by Dr. Sue Johnson and her colleagues. Research shows that 70%-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and 90% show significant improvements when therapists use EFT strategies and techniques.

    Unlike other therapy approaches, the primary focus of which is on changing behaviors and thoughts, EFT focuses on changing emotional responses in a way that strengthens the emotional bond with the partner. Although EFT was developed primarily for couples, it is now being used with individuals and families as well.

    Attachment and EFT

    EFT believes that the pain and emotional struggle within a couple reflects the need for an attachment with one other. Having a safe, secure attachment to someone means that they provide a safe space for you to be your truest self and go throughout your life living in this safe, secure mindset.

    Its like when you were a child and you knew that your mother or father would be there for you, even if you didnt physically see them right in front of you. You felt safe knowing they were somewhere nearby and that they always came back to you, especially in times of distress. This is a secure attachment.

    Each of these attachment styles plays a role in your relationship with your partner and impacts the way you connect with each other on a deeper level.

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    Cost Of Emotionally Focused Therapy & Does Insurance Typically Cover It

    The cost of a couples counselor who practices emotionally focused therapy varies greatly depending upon therapist experience, geographic location, and other factors. Cost estimates range from $150 to $250 per session with sessions lasting from 60 to 90 minutes each. Insurance may cover the cost depending upon an individuals policy, but often it does not. It is recommended to ask your insurance provider if they cover couples counseling.


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