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Emotionally Focused Therapy

July 27, 2020 Read Time - 4 minutes

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Jennifer is a freelance writer in the Midwest who writes about a variety of topics but especially enjoys educating people about their health and the health of their pets.

Emotionally Focused Therapy

Have you heard about emotionally focused therapy? The phrase may have come up if you’re looking into couple’s therapy or family therapy. It can actually be extremely effective for individuals, couples, and families. What is it, and how does it work? Let’s talk about what to expect from emotionally focused therapy.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally focused therapy is a type of attachment therapy that is generally used to help couples or families improve their relationships, although it can also be used to help individuals get in touch with their emotions. It has been well studied and is quite effective, especially with couple’s therapy.  

How Do You Know When to Use Emotionally Focused Therapy? 

Do you find yourself having the same argument over and over again with your spouse or a family member? Emotionally focused therapy can help you find the emotion behind the repeated arguments and help you solve the underlying cause of the problem as well as feel more attached to your significant other or family member. 

How Does Emotionally Focused Therapy Work? 

Emotionally focused therapy uses attachment theory to help the therapist see and understand the drama of emotions, distress, and needs between partners. The therapist can then direct new conversations and interactions based on honest feelings.

Through emotion-focused therapy exercises, people may discover deeper past vulnerabilities and feelings that are blocked by the more immediate emotions displayed in the current relationship.

Theory and Background of EFT

Canadian psychologist Sue Johnson was the primary originator of emotionally focused therapy for couples in the 1980s, while Drs. Leslie Greenberg and Robert Elliot developed emotion-focused therapy for individuals. Since then, many studies have shown its effectiveness. 

What Is the Goal of Emotionally Focused Therapy?

The goal of emotionally focused therapy is to create a more secure emotional bond between people by expressing deep, underlying emotions from a place of vulnerability and asking for their needs to be met.

When to Use Emotionally Focused Therapy

Emotionally focused therapy is ideal for reducing conflict in couples and families, although it can also be used to help individuals better understand their emotions. 

While it was originally designed for couples, emotion-focused family therapy can help families connect and improve emotional attachment.

What Are the Stages of EFT?

EFT has nine treatment steps arranged into three stages:

  • De-escalate the negative cycle of interactions, and help clients see and understand what is going on in their relationship. They realize that their problems lie in distance and insecurities.
  • Restructure interactions: The therapist helps clients talk about their fears in the relationship with language that doesn’t push the other person or people away. Clients learn to discuss their needs, turn toward each other, and become more responsive and open to each other.
  • Consolidation: The therapist helps clients see how they fell into negative patterns and teaches them how to change those patterns and continue these conversations.

What to Look for in an Emotionally Focused Therapist

First, you want to find a therapist who is both certified in EFT and has plenty of experience with it. Additionally, you want to make sure it’s somebody you’re really comfortable with.

Emotionally focused therapy won’t work if you don’t feel comfortable baring your deepest emotions to your therapist. You may need to see more than one therapist before you find one you’re really comfortable with. 

Emotionally Focused Therapy Online

Luckily, more and more therapists are providing their services online these days, either on their own or through a telehealth website. Not all therapists provide emotionally focused therapy, though, so you may need to do a lot of research to find one that does. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Effective Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

About three in every four couples who go through emotionally focused couples therapy successfully move from distress to recovery, and 90% show significant improvements in their relationship.  

What Is Emotion-Focused Therapy for Individuals?

Emotion-focused therapy for individuals is very similar to emotionally focused therapy for couples or families, but it focuses on helping individuals examine personal emotions and emotional responses to better understand them.

How Long Does Emotionally Focused Therapy Take?

Emotionally focused therapy usually takes about eight to 20 sessions. 

Does EFT actually Work?

Yes, studies have shown that EFT is actually one of the most effective types of talk therapy, particularly for couples. 

Do Therapists Receive Emotionally Focused Therapy Training?

Not all therapists receive emotionally focused therapy training. The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy provides certification to therapists who receive additional training in EFT. If you’re interested in EFT, look for a therapist who has been certified in it. 

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Good Therapy. Emotionally Focused Therapy. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

Very Well Mind. Emotionally Focused Therapy. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at,love%20as%20an%20attachment%20bond.

Psychology Today. Emotionally Focused Therapy. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

ICEEFT. What Is EFT? Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

APA PsycNet. Resolving attachment injuries in couples using emotionally focused therapy: Steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

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