Welcome to Armstrongs’ Counselling Services webpage on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).
What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?
EFT is a short term (8 to 30 sessions), structured approach to couples and relationship therapy formulated in the early 80’s by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg. EFT has been validated by 20 years of empirical research and is approved by the American Psychology Association. These research studies found that 70 to 75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% showed significant improvements. EFT’s original focus was on couples, but it has clearly expanded its focus to individuals and families. EFT can now appropriately be called “Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples, Individuals and Families.”
The focus on emotion gives EFT its unique contribution to relationship therapy and is the essential transforming element in EFT. The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “to move.” EFT uses the power of emotion to “move” clients toward a new response and away from old habits or stuck patterns. When we speak of being emotionally “moved” we are usually talking of being touched, stirred up, or compelled to respond to a powerful cue. In summary, emotion pulls us toward and organizes our key responses in close relationships.
What are the Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples?
- To expand and re-organize key emotional responses – the music of the attachment dance.
- To create a shift in the interactional positions and initiate new cycles of interaction.
- To foster the creation of a secure bond between people.
What is The Change Process in EFT?
The Change Process has been mapped into three stages. In the first stage, the therapist helps identify both the surface and deeper feelings that result in the negative behavior. In looking at these behaviors, the therapist helps the people come to understand the pattern/habit/cycle that has come to dictate the dysfunctional interaction. People are encouraged to recognize that the problem is not them as people but the negative cycle/pattern that has taken them over. The therapist helps people understand that the emotions and behavior of their dysfunctional pattern are a result of people not believing that they can count on others. EFT uses the here and now experience of the session to access and use emotions to change their interactions and negative patterns into more connected, loving ones.
In the Second Stage, people are taught to shift from the dysfunctional pattern so that they can either become more engaged with others or soften their approach. Clients are helped to express their needs and wants from a less defensive stance and to express the deeper, truer needs that have not been fulfilled to date.
In Stage Three, people now can consolidate their new learnings by the therapist’s encouraging and supporting any new solutions to the old problems as they re-occur.
When is EFT not recommended?
The basic task of the therapist is to provide a safe environment for the client to explore relationship issues whether that be with oneself or with others. Because EFT helps people ‘move’ beyond their dysfunctional patterns through accessing the underlying vulnerability that each person is trying to protect, emotional safety is paramount in EFT. The following circumstances will likely prevent the establishment of safety and trust in the therapy process:
- If there is ongoing violence in a relationship.
- If a partner is harboring a secret, such as an affair, and isn’t willing to disclose it, the EFT therapist can help the person move toward revealing the secret during the early stages of therapy.
- If one of the partners is adamant that the other is the problem even to the point of wanting their partner to have a psychiatric diagnosis.
- If addictions are unacknowledged by a partner.
In summary, if you were to watch an EFT therapist work, you would see the therapist creating a safe and equal relationship. You would see the therapist tracking and exploring how emotions direct the client’s interaction and how the interaction then shapes their behavior. You would see the therapist expanding emotional responses to include basic fears and needs and helping to create a new interaction based on these expanded emotions. Construction and rigidity is replaced by expansiveness and flexibility.
If you would like further information on EFT, please go the head office website in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, www.ICEEFT.com.