What is Emotion Focused Couples Therapy?
Originally formulated in the 1980s, Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) represents a group of interrelated approaches to psychotherapy that are informed by humanistic thought, experiential therapy, and theories of adult attachment. EFT prioritizes the connection between our emotions and our needs, and draws on this connection to work through difficult emotional states, enhance emotion regulation, and heal attachment injurires within interpersonal relationships. EFT is widely regarded as the prevailing gold standard of therapy within the field of couples therapy.
A couple trying to sort their differences in a therapy session.
How Does Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy Work?
Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT) is a short-term (8-20 sessions) therapy that seeks an in-depth understanding of the patterns within intimate relationships, and helps to reconfigure those pattners to enable everyone involved to have the kind of relationship they want. In contrast to seeing yourself or your partner(s) as “the problem,” EFCT enables partners to understand how the patterns of interaction within the relationship may be contributing to dissatisfaction, conflict or animosity.
This approach to therapy seeks to transform your relationship into one of positive and loving connection. More specifically, EFCT will help partners to:
- understand how they have gotten stuck in negative patterns within their intimate
- identify and alter unhelpful ways in which they engage in conflict by teaching new relationship and communication skills.
- enhance their capacities to negotiate with each other.
- shift emotional signals to generate more constructive, positive relational dynamics through emotionally intelligent, empathetic and effective communication
- strengthen mutuality, empathy, and consideration.
- create more overall relationship satisfaction by deepening trust and intimacy, and creating more secure emotional bonds.
While it may seem as though some relationships are inherently wonderful, the reality is that the skills necessary to create them are often learned rather than intuitive. These skills may take some practice and experience, but the rewards are inestimable. The support of an EFCT therapist in this process can be profoundly helpful.
Can I Bring my Partner(s)?
Yes. If you are in a monogamous relationship with one other person, the majority of your sessions will require that both of you attend. If you are consensually non-monogamous with one partner or more, you are welcome to bring your partner(s) as long as they have consented to come with you to therapy. Irregardless of the constellation(s) of your intimate relationship(s), your therapist may ask to have a session with everyone together, followed by a session with each of you individually. Your therapist will then offer suggestions for therapeutic arrangements that will best suit everyone’s needs.
How Do We Know it Works?
EFCT is an empirically validated metholodgy whose effectiveness has been substantiated by of over 30 years of research. This body of research demonstrates large treatment effect sizes and the results have proven stable over time. EFCT has been validated with heterosexual couples, non heterosexual couples, and people in relationships who live with depression, anxiety, experiences of trauma, medical illness and with forgiveness dilemmas. This modality has been found to be successful in a range of settings including private practive, university training centers, health care clinics, and hospitals.
Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. New York, NY.
Johnson, S. (2015). Emotion Focused Couples Therapy. In A. S. Gurman, J. L. Lebow & D.
K. Synder (Eds.), Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy (pp. pages of chapter).
The International Center for Excellence in Emotion Focused Therapy (ICEEFT). (2020). What is EFT. International Centre for Excellence in Emotion Focused Therapy.
Meneses, C. W., & Greenberg, L. S. (2011). The construction of a model of the process of couples’ forgiveness in emotion-focused therapy for couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 37(4), 491-502.
Stavrianopoulos, K. (2015). Enhancing relationship satidfaction among college student couples: An emotionally focused therapy (EFT) approach. Journal of Couple andRelationship Therapy, 14(1), 1-16.
Torkan, A., Farhadi, H., Golparvar, M. (2020). Comparative study of the effectiveness of emotionally focused therapy (EFT) for couples and narrative couple therapy (NCT) on marital quality. Vesnu Publications.