Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) was developed by Sue Johnson and Les Greenburg in the 1980’s, and has been continually developed by Sue Johnson since that time. EFT has been well researched, and achieves the best results of any researched couple therapy, with an incredible 75% of couples moving from distress to nondistress, and 90% of couples improving in research studies.
The foundation of EFT is the assumption, well supported by neuroscience, that we are attached to our partners as adults, in much the same way that children are attached to their parents. We are literally wired to depend on others, and our partners in particular, for our emotional as well as physical safety and well-being. Couples naturally develop negative patterns in their relationship when there are barriers, often from past learning, to clearly communicating and responding to each other around needs for support, comfort and reassurance.
EFT is a structured approach to couple therapy, with 3 Stages and 9 Steps. When treatment is not complicated by past trauma, addiction, or mental illness, treatment is generally completed in 8-20 sessions. When complications are present, treatment can be significantly longer.
In the first stage of EFT, couples develop an understanding of the negative patterns that undermine them. They become aware of both partner’s moves, understand that each person’s moves are valid, and that both partner’s moves perpetuate stuck patterns. Couples develop a deeper, accurate and more compassionate understanding of what is happening within themselves and their partner. Both partners become able to see the pattern — rather than themselves or their partner — as the problem. Couples learn to de-escalate and step out of their negative pattern.
Between the first and second stages of EFT, traumatic injuries related to actual or perceived relationship abandonment or rejection are healed and repaired. Before continuing to Stage 2, any complications such as addictions, affairs, abuse or mixed agendas are also resolved.
In the second stage of EFT, couple’s transform deeply held negative beliefs or judgements, conscious and unconscious, that each hold about themselves and their partner. Transformational moments in Stage 2 of EFT are deeply impactful, creating both tremendous healing and bonding. In Stage 2, negative patterns transform into ongoing, positive patterns of healing, support and connection.
In the third, usually very brief stage of EFT, the work the couple has accomplished is consolidated. Any outstanding problems are resolved.