What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) For Couples?

EFT is a counseling method for couples that is highly effective, resulting in increased couple satisfaction and decreased couple distress. Developed by Sue Johnson, EFT understands adult love to be a highly evolved human power which can improve every aspect of a couple’s life. When couples are disappointed or distressed by their partner or relationship the ultimate cause is understood to be feelings of disconnection and restrictive patterns of behavior that are non-adaptive. And any disconnection then reinforces more non-ideal patterns. The cure, as far as EFT is concerned, is experiencing a new, open and attuned responsiveness to our partners. This deep openness can lead to improved intimacy and new non-restrictive patterns of behavior. 

How Does EFT Work?

EFT works by shaping the way a couple interacts with each other. When couples suffer or disagree, they demonstrate attack or withdrawal behavior. In essence, each couple has its own distress dance, one that feels natural to perform but one that leaves both members angry, sad or disconnected. EFT changes that interaction pattern, the dance itself. An EFT therapist does this by slowing down the steps of the pattern and guiding each member toward a new movement—different steps that allow a couple to remain connected and adaptive. These new moves are experienced in-session as the therapist moves with the client through EFT’s 3 Stages of change. The process typically requires 8-16 sessions. 

What Results Can I Expect From EFT? 

Ninety percent of couples who finish the 3 Stages of EFT experience significant improvements in their relationship. Seventy percent of participants will consider themselves “recovered” from whatever relational distress they were feeling prior to therapy. Because EFT engages a client’s deepest emotional reality in real time, positive results that flow from these new interactions tend to be lasting. This result is one of EFT’s major contributions to the history of couples therapy. In the past, much of couples therapy focused on teaching couples communication techniques or styles of bargaining. Unfortunately, such techniques are immediately forgotten by clients once they start dancing their own distress dance. What clients need is a process choreographer and time in-session to practice an improved dance. While EFT focuses on the way couples interact and the emotions that underpin those interactions, the positive results from EFT usually spill over into other areas of a client’s life. Couples often feel EFT is serving the individual, the couple, and the broader family all at once. 


The International Centre For Excellence In EFT is: https://iceeft.com
Dr. Sue Johnson’s personal website: https://drsuejohnson.com
By Jesse Schweppe, Clinical Intern (jesse@amyrobbinscounseling.com)