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Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a widely recognized and effective approach to couples therapy that focuses on understanding and transforming the emotional dynamics within intimate relationships. Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Les Greenberg developed EFT in the 1980s, drawing from attachment theory and humanistic psychology.

The core principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy include:

  • Emotional Engagement: EFT emphasizes the importance of emotional engagement and connection between partners. It recognizes that emotions are at the heart of intimate relationships and that emotional bonds are essential for a secure and satisfying partnership.

  • Attachment Theory: EFT is deeply rooted in attachment theory, which suggests that humans have an innate need to form strong emotional bonds with significant others. EFT helps partners understand their attachment needs and how these needs influence their relationship dynamics.

  • Emotional Awareness: A central goal of EFT is to help partners become more aware of their own and their partner's emotions. By recognizing and expressing emotions openly, couples can deepen their understanding and emotional connection.

  • Reframing Negative Patterns: EFT identifies and reframes negative interactional patterns within the relationship, such as pursuing-distance or criticize-defend cycles. The therapist helps couples recognize these patterns and shift toward more positive and constructive interactions.

  • Promoting Vulnerability and Responsiveness: EFT encourages partners to share vulnerable feelings and needs with each other, and it emphasizes the importance of responsiveness and support in meeting those needs.

  • Creating New Bonds: Through the therapy process, partners can create new emotional bonds and experiences that foster a sense of safety and security in the relationship.

The stages of Emotionally Focused Therapy typically include:

  • Assessment: The therapist works with the couple to understand their relationship history, attachment styles, and the presenting issues. This assessment helps identify negative patterns and emotional barriers.

  • Changing Negative Patterns: Couples work to recognize and change the negative patterns that contribute to relationship distress. The therapist helps partners express their emotions and needs more effectively and empathically.

  • Promoting Emotional Engagement: EFT focuses on promoting emotional engagement and fostering a secure emotional bond between partners.

  • Consolidation: In this final stage, the couple and therapist review progress, celebrate positive changes, and reinforce the new emotional patterns and bonds developed during therapy.

Emotionally Focused Therapy has been extensively researched and has shown positive outcomes in helping couples improve communication, emotional intimacy, and relationship satisfaction. EFT is now widely practiced and recognized as one of the most effective and evidence-based approaches to couples therapy.

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