Monday, April 29, 2019

Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples

Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples

Feb 12, 2018
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples

EFT is a structured approach to couples therapy developed in the 1980s by Dr. Sue Johnson. Based on emotional responses to adult attachment, EFT assumes that relationships are at the core of the human experience. People “need” people in the best sense of the word: to create a secure bond; to be assured that they are heard, felt, and supported; to have a safe haven to explore their own potential and to handle whatever challenges the world presents. EFT is proven to work. Results from six randomized clinical trials demonstrate that EFT is beneficial to couples in distress (86% experience significant improvement*).
The Common Enemy in a Marriage – Negative Patterns
EFT begins by helping couples identify negative patterns in their relationships. For example, one partner might act critically, pointing out their partner’s faults or habits, and the other may respond defensively by arguing or pulling away. These reactions make sense – who doesn’t feel threatened when their loved ones attack them? Unfortunately, criticism and reactivity don’t bring couples closer together or make either partner feel loved or secure. On the contrary: repeated negative interactions hurt. And over time, both partners come to expect and brace themselves for these attacks from arguably the most important person in their life.
But what’s behind these behaviors? How can they change? Clearly, identifying negative cycles is the first step. What words or actions “trigger” negativity in the other? EFT probes further: what deeper emotions are being experienced, besides obvious anger and resentment? It makes sense that there would be pain, disappointment and sadness when a loved one lets us down. If we didn’t care so much, our partners’ behavior wouldn’t bother us so much. And we wouldn’t react in kind.
Expressing Deep Emotions
When conflicts are examined more calmly and compassionately, both partners can let their guard down a little and acknowledge the pain and hurt they are experiencing. Many times, they are experiencing the same fears and insecurities that they have known since childhood – fear of not being important, of being alone, of not being “good enough.” And in response, they employ the same learned responses that they’ve always used, whether they work or not.
With the help of the EFT therapist, who slows down the conflict and gives both partners the time and language to express deeper emotions, couples can learn to talk to each other in ways that don’t push the other away. They can take chances with being more vulnerable, beginning to trust that their partner does want to listen and respond to their needs. They begin to realize that their negative cycle has become an obstacle to seeing and hearing the person they love. Equally important, they realize that things can be different.
Creating New Patterns of Love
Vulnerability leads to closeness in a relationship. When couples learn to turn to each other instead of away, the possibilities are endless. Eventually, they can create and reinforce new patterns of interaction that take the place of the destructive ones. Instead of expecting the worst from their partner, they can now empathize with the fears and insecurities that are at the root of their partner’s behavior. Most important, they learn how to continue these types of conversations in the future. The latter stages of EFT help couples solidify their new dance steps until they know them by heart.

Written By Jennifer Kane, LSW. Jennifer is a contracted therapist at Insight and she is available  for couples therapy to help strengthen your connection and heal from past wounds.  Feel free to contact her at or 303-517-2776.

*Taken from Furrow, Johnson & Bradley (2011), The Emotionally Focused Casebook: New Directions in Treating Couples.

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