Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a short-term form of therapy that focuses on adult relationships and attachment / bonding. It can also be used to address individual depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress (EFIT – Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy) and to repair family bonds (EFFT – Emotionally Focused Family Therapy).
Attachment theory, the concept that people are made healthier by emotional contact and need to feel safe in their connections to others, helped guide the development of this approach. Emotionally Focused Therapy is based on the concept that distress in intimate relationships is often related to deeply rooted fears of abandonment, as an individual’s emotional response to these fears may be harmful to relationship partners and put strain on a relationship. When intimate partners are not able to meet each other’s emotional needs, they may become stuck in negative patterns of interaction driven by ineffective attempts to get each other to understand their emotions and related needs.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) in Practice.
In Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the therapist and the clients look at patterns in the relationship and take steps to create a more secure bond and develop more trust to move the relationship in a healthier and more positive direction.
The Strengths of EFT
EFT is based on clear, explicit research-based conceptualizations of individual growth, health and dysfunction and of relationship distress and adult love.
EFT is collaborative and respectful of clients, combining experiential Rogerian techniques with structural systemic interventions.
Change strategies and interventions are specified. Key moves and moments in the change process have been mapped into three stages of therapy and key change events that predict success at the end of therapy.
EFT has been validated by over 30 years of empirical research, including research on the change processes and predictors of success.
EFT has been applied to many different kinds of problems and populations.
The Goals of EFT
To order and re-organize key emotional responses – the music of the interactional dance with others.
To expand both the clients’ core sense of self and how they respond to others in the dance of attachment.
To foster emotional balance and coherence, a sense of competence and worth and the open, responsive engagement with others that shapes secure bonds – bonds that create resilience and agency.
The Essence of EFT
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violinLeonard Cohen
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love…
“Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in” … We are all longing for that ‘safety in connection’, for that sense that we can let go of our anxieties, relax, knowing that we are held and witnessed. We want to know that ‘I am safe with you’, that when I need you, you will be there for me, and you have my back. We all need that.
We are wired for survival and for connection. For most of us, our sense of intuition will alert us to any emotional danger in our relationships with disconnects signaling danger. We will then want to protect ourselves, by prompting a protest, a fight or flight, or freeze and flee response. It is when that safe love connection gets compromised, that our primary panic alarm sets us off, alerting us to the danger of disconnect from a loved one.
Our infants and children know how to respond when they feel the danger of our disconnection. They experience separation anxiety and when we have secure bonds with our children, we are quick to offer them comfort and reassurance. We all need this response as adults, too.
We all long for that sense of being ‘gathered safely in,’ When we can truly let go, take a deep breath, lean in, and let our shoulders down.
Dr. Sue Johnson, the author of Hold Me Tight and Love Sense, and the originator or EFT (Emotional Focused Therapy), says:
Our loved one is our shelter in life. When this person is unavailable and unresponsive we are assailed by a tsunami of emotions — sadness, anger, hurt and above all, fear. This fear is wired in. Being able to rely on a loved one, to know that he or she will answer our call is our innate survival code.
When we sense that a primary love relationship is threatened, we go into a primal panic. Underneath all the loud arguments and long silences, partners are asking each other the key questions in the drama of love: “Are you there for me? Do I and my feelings matter to you? Will you respond to me when I need you?
The answers to these questions, questions that are so hard to ask and so hard to hear in the heat of a fight, make the difference between emotional safety and emotional peril and starvation.