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Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples is a structured approach to couples therapy formulated in the 1980s by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg. It is grounded in research while focusing on emotions, emotional responses, and the dynamics within relationships. EFT helps couples build or rebuild a secure emotional attachment and strengthen their bond.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is primarily used as a treatment for couples and families, although it can also be adapted for individual therapy. EFT helps to address various psychological and relational issues by focusing on emotional attachment and bonding within the relationship dynamic.

Principles of EFT for Couples

Emotions as a Target and Agent of Change: The therapy focuses on accessing and reprocessing emotions to create new emotional experiences that can foster a more secure connection between partners.

Attachment Theory as a Guide: EFT is based on attachment theory, which posits that humans have an innate need to form strong, secure attachments with others. The quality of emotional attachments in adult
relationships is central to EFT, with the therapist helping partners to articulate their needs for closeness and reassurance.

Negative Interaction Cycles: EFT looks at the patterns of interaction between partners as cycles that perpetuate distress. The therapy aims to help couples understand and eventually change these negative cycles, transforming them into positive interactions.

Focus on the Present: While historical information is considered, EFT focuses primarily on present interactions and current emotional experiences to foster change in the relationship dynamics.

Experiential Approach: EFT involves creating and working through emotional experiences in the therapy room, rather than solely focusing on cognitive or behavioral change.

Process of EFT for Couples

Stage 1: De-escalation of Negative Cycle
Assessment and De-escalation: Identifying the specific conflict cycles within the relationship, understanding the emotions underlying these cycles, and beginning to address patterns of blame or withdrawal.

Identify the Cycle as the Enemy: Couples are encouraged to view the repetitive patterns of conflict as the common enemy, rather than each other.

Stage 2: Changing Interactional Positions and Deepening Emotional Engagement
Identify and Express Primary Emotions: Helping each partner express their more vulnerable, primary emotions that are often hidden beneath secondary reactive emotions like anger.

Reframe the Problem: The therapist helps the couple see how their individual emotional experiences contribute to the cycle.

Create New Interactions: Partners are guided to express their needs and longings and respond to each other in more emotionally connected ways.

Stage 3: Consolidation and Integration
New Solutions to Old Problems: Couples use their new emotional bond to find solutions to old relational problems, altering the interaction patterns.

Consolidate Gains: Reflection on the therapy process to ensure that changes are integrated and stable, preventing a return to previous destructive cycles.

EFT is particularly effective for treating a variety of issues, including: couples experiencing relationship distress, individuals with depression, anxiety, or trauma, persons dealing with unresolved attachment issues and individuals struggling with self-esteem or identity issues.

EFT is distinguished by its emphasis on emotional change processes rather than merely changing cognitions or behaviors. Its goal is to help clients change the emotional memories that underpin their difficulties, leading to increased emotional intelligence and well-being. The empathetic and accepting environment fostered by EFT makes it a powerful modality for emotional healing and personal growth.

In conclusion, EFT is a versatile and profoundly effective approach for treating a range of emotional and relational issues. By focusing on emotional responses and attachments, EFT facilitates deep and lasting changes that can significantly improve the quality of relationships and individual well-being.

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