Couples in conflict can experience a significant amount of pain and crisis. This pain becomes amplified when partners struggle to communicate their feelings with each other.
In these cases, it’s often invaluable to consult with an objective third-party such as a licensed marriage and family therapist. A therapist can offer professional and impartial insights that helps couples care not only for themselves, but for their relationship as well.
One popular therapeutic method for couples is called emotionally focused therapy (EFT). For nearly four decades, EFT has helped couples all over the world heal and evolve their relationships.
What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?
Pioneered by Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Les Greenberg, emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is an approach to couples’ therapy based on decades of science and empirical research. EFT is typically provided on a short-term basis of anywhere from 10 to 20 sessions and helps couples explore their patterns of communication and connection.
EFT has a clearly defined framework: it features at least nine specific steps and three “phases” that the therapist uses to guide and track the couple’s progress. EFT also looks at love through the lens of attachment bond. This concept comes from the broader lens of attachment theory, which is rooted in the childhood experience.
According to attachment theory, patterns of connection are established from an early age and influence the degree to which someone can feel safe and secure in their bond with another person. For example, a young child who is raised by an emotionally unavailable or unreliable parent is likely to feel distressed and unsafe in the parent/child relationship. This can cause the child to learn coping mechanisms and behavioral patterns that aren’t conducive to fostering healthy bonds with others. As an adult, this person may continue to exhibit these learned behaviors and patterns and therefore feel distressed and unsafe with their partner.
Of course, in any couple there could be not just one both two people dealing with these challenging, childhood-based patterns! In this way, EFT acts as the bridge that attempts to help both partners unearth their learned patterns, build trust, and learn how to connect in a healthier and more secure way.
3 Benefits of Emotionally Focused Therapy for the Distressed Couple
- It involves a collaborative and caring approach. Partners practicing EFT enjoy a new paradigm—one that honors who they are as individuals and as a couple. Instead of assuming that a couple’s “problem” comes from character flaws, EFT rests on the assumption that relationship distress springs from a couple’s communication and behavior patterns. The issue is not who they are, but the patterns they’ve learned over a lifetime and routinely exhibit. The goal then is to identify and address these issues rather than try to “fix” each other.
- It helps couples learn how to bond in a healthy way. EFT teaches a couple how to see their relationship as a healing environment where it’s not only safe but advantageous to be vulnerable. Partners are taught how to access and express emotions, communicate their deepest needs, remain emotionally available and empathetic, and avoid “disconnecting” behaviors like shutting down or angrily escalating. These are central tenets to a healthy bond and can truly transform a relationship, no matter its length or history.
- It’s effective. Studies on EFT show that as many as 75% of couples who receive EFT are able to transition from a state of relationship distress to relationship recovery; 90% of these “success” stories experience significant improvements in their communication and overall bond. Research also indicates that recovery through EFT is relatively stable and can provide lasting benefits.
Interested in Learning More About Emotionally Focused Therapy?
You and your spouse are different—both as individuals and as a couple. This means that your “best fit” therapy needs to be tailored to meet your specific needs and goals. Contact Couples Thrive at 954-654-9609 if you’d like to connect with an EFT trained therapist in Fort Lauderdale and transcend this moment of distress in your relationship.