Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) has the highest success rate of any form of couple therapy. With extensive research showing its positive effects on relationship satisfaction, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and PTSD to name a few, EFT is recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as an “evidence-based” therapy for couples distress.
What is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)?
History of EFT
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a structured approach to couples therapy that is based on the science of adult love and bonding (attachment). Developed in the 1980’s by Drs. Susan Johnson and Les Greenberg, EFT is a highly researched, effective and evidence-based theory that helps couples understand and respond to each other’s needs. EFT concepts have been validated by over 20 years of empirical research as well as research on the process of change and predictors of relationship success.
Studies show that 70-75% of couples working with an EFT therapist move from relationship distress to recovery during the course of therapy. Approximately 90% show significant improvements. The results of EFT therapy tend to be robust and long lasting, something that other modalities of couples therapy cannot claim.
How EFT Works
When we can’t find a safe, loving way to stay connected to our partner we go into a state of emotional pain and alarm. We automatically respond by protesting or withdrawal (fight or flight) when we feel this fear or panic. Our partner will then often respond with his or her own protest or withdrawal. This cycle is a “neural duet” between partners—they impact each other both physiologically and emotionally creating a feedback loop of negative interactions.
EFT is a systematic map of steps and stages that understands these cycles as the underpinnings of relationship distress. Couples are helped to create nurturance, love and connection in their relationships. Change strategies and interventions are specified within the EFT steps and stages. Couples learn to identify their cycle, the emotions underling the reactions and their parts in the dance as they come up in the session and at home. Couples learn to regulate their emotions and send clear, coherent emotional signals of their needs to their partner. They also learn how to respond in a healthy way to the signals that are sent to them.
Couples begin to actively create a new, positive cycle where they can express their needs and fears and create accessibility and responsiveness. When we can send clear attachment cues we actually pull out partner closer and create the safety, trust and support that we have been yearning for. EFT is a collaborative, experiential model that encourages couples to be involved in the deconstructing of the negative cycle and the creation of a new, secure relationship.