What Is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and How Does it Work?

Mar 29, 2023Hot Topics0 comments

Emotionally focused couples therapy, EFT, or EFCT, is one of the most well-validated couples counseling modalities worldlwide. Dr. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg created EFT in the 1980s based on 50 years of research. Dr. Johnson further developed emotionally focused couples therapy. The therapists at Hyland and Associates Counseling Services use this approach when providing couples counseling, marriage counseling and family counseling in South Orange County, Irvine Ca.
How Effective is EFT?

Empirical research has shown that 70–75 percent of couples that engage in emotionally focused couples therapy report less distress and 86–90 percent of those couples report feeling happier in their relationship.
Emotionally focused couples therapy at Hyland and Associates Counseling Services in Irvine, CA can help you and your partner look at patterns that aren’t working and develop ways to build trust and strengthen your relationship.
EFT stems from attachment theory. It is founded on the premise that adults may have strong bonds while maintaining their freedom in “secure attachment” relationships.
When we feel seen, heard, and safe in our relationships, we have a greater capacity for resilience and experience more joy. EFT teaches clients how to use their feelings to build a more stable connection and find better ways to deal with conflicts in their relationships.

What are the Stages of EFT?

You can expect to go through three main stages during emotionally focused couples therapy:
Stage One: De-escalation
In the first stage of EFT, couples learn how to identify and express their emotions in a safe and constructive way. The therapist helps each partner identify the underlying emotional patterns and attachment needs that contribute to their relationship distress. Once these emotional patterns are identified, couples can start to de-escalate their conflicts and restore a sense of safety and trust in their relationship.
Example: Let’s say a couple argues frequently about household chores. In EFT, the therapist would help each partner identify the emotions underlying the conflict, such as feeling unappreciated or unsupported. The therapist would then guide the couple to express these emotions to each other in a safe and respectful way, instead of resorting to blaming or criticizing.
Stage Two: Restructuring
In the second stage of EFT, couples learn how to restructure their emotional responses and behaviors to better meet each other’s attachment needs. This involves learning new communication skills and behaviors that help each partner feel more secure and connected in the relationship.
Example: Let’s say a couple struggles with emotional distance and lack of intimacy. In EFT, the therapist would guide the couple to express their attachment needs and help them develop new behaviors that promote emotional closeness, such as spending more quality time together or expressing appreciation for each other.
Stage Three: Consolidation
In the third stage of EFT, couples learn how to consolidate the changes they’ve made and maintain their progress over time. This involves practicing new behaviors and communication skills and developing a deeper understanding of each other’s emotional experiences and needs.
Example: Let’s say a couple has successfully worked through their conflicts and developed new behaviors that promote emotional closeness. In EFT, the therapist would help the couple consolidate these changes by encouraging them to continue practicing their new skills and building on their emotional connection over time. The therapist might also help the couple prepare for potential future challenges and stressors that could test their progress.

What to Expect from EFT?

You may expect to become more aware of what is happening within yourself and in your relationship during the initial stage of EFT at Hyland and Associates Counseling Services and what you need to focus on to improve it. You will also learn how to de-escalate and decrease the negative cycle of interactions.
However, you can expect most transformations to happen during the second stage of your EFT counseling. This is the longest and most crucial stage of EFT. During this stage, you should recognize when you and your partner feel stuck in unhealthy cycles. But you should also learn to slow down, be vulnerable, and then talk about your problems more responsively.
You will finally understand your cycle, the primary and secondary emotions that motivate your behavior, and how to share painful experiences without shutting down, taking it personally, or feeling offended. When you understand the feelings and traumatic experiences that led to certain behaviors, you can be open and vulnerable with your partner. This will occur during the third stage of your couples counseling.
Who Can Benefit from Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy?

Your relationship doesn’t have to be in distress to benefit from EFT. Anyone who wants to improve their relationship can benefit from emotionally focused couples therapy.
EFT teaches couples how to improve and show empathy for one another, experience one another’s feelings, and be more authentic, helping strengthen their attachment bond.


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