I learned early on in my work with couples that I needed a framework, a model to work within. There is so much happening in a couple therapy session, and things can get chaotic quickly. EFT has provided that roadmap for me.
EFT, or Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples, was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson. She is the author of several books, including two for the general public; Hold Me Tight and Lovesense. Take a look at her TED talks and various YouTube clips to hear her speak firsthand about helping couples using the EFT model.
EFT is evidence based, meaning there is valid research supporting its effectiveness. The numbers show that after completing a course of EFT (about 15-20 sessions), 70% of couples move from distressed to happy, and 90% of them show significant improvement. And what’s even more remarkable, is that outcome studies show that these results remain stable 2 years after treatment.
What makes EFT so effective?
- It’s based on attachment theory. It taps into an innate system within each of us; our attachment system, which drives us to seek closeness with others. The longing to feel close to someone resonates for most of us, even if it sounds a little scary or uncomfortable.
- It gets to the heart of the matter. A couple’s distress is viewed as a problem with their emotional bond. Something is happening in the relationship that is causing them to feel insecure, distant, disconnected. It’s not seen as a problem requiring communication skills or other external fixes.
- It doesn’t pathologize neediness. Needs are part of the human experience. We have particular needs within our love relationships, and it’s considered healthy to need someone, to want someone to depend on. We are wired to seek this connection, and we are wired to feel distress when the connection is lost or threatened.
- It focuses on emotions. Emotions are not irrational; they make sense when we take the time to understand them. EFT helps people make sense of their emotions by guiding them to discover how they are connected to their deepest needs.
- It is nonjudgmental, non blaming. We aren’t trying to figure out who’s to blame. Each partner will be asked to look at their unique contributions to the negative cycle. Fighting in session is contained and processed. Creating a safe environment for all is prioritized.
- It’s logical, in that it makes sense of the negative patterns that develop as partners try to cope with painful feelings and unmet needs. Understanding the negative cycle allows partners to stop blaming themselves and each other, and instead, work together to defeat their cycle. The painful arguments and distance start to make sense, and through this understanding, partners can learn to prevent the negative cycle, interrupt it when it starts, and take steps toward repairing their bond to feel close again.