All couples have occasions when partners wound each other. The result is often a strain or even a rupture in the attachment bond. A key difference between those who thrive and those who merely survive—or don't—is the ability to turn to each other, take risks to share vulnerabilities with their partner and ask for specific needs to be met. Those who cannot reconnect in this way generally resort to coping strategies—such as angry escalation or stoney withdrawal—that contribute added conflict or distance to the relationship.
Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples is an integrated model utilizing elements of humanistic, experiential and systematic approaches rooted in adult attachment theory. The actual content of couples' arguments is generally much less important than how their interactions erode attachment security. The therapist's task is to first help couples de-escalate conflict patterns, then promote engagement by creating the powerful bonding events that lead to lasting change.
Since the mid 1980's, an ever-growing body of research, including randomized clinical trials and task analysis have shown EFT to be effective with both general and specific populations. It is currently one of the few couple therapy models to meet the APA criteria for empirically supported therapies. Research studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements. Therapists appreciate EFT's clearly delineated change process and couples benefit from a therapy that not only explains their distress, but also provides a clear direction for relief. Sessions generally last from 8-20 sessions though the length may vary and depends on many factors, for example, trauma in a partner's past or a recent affair the couple is working through.
For a short summary of EFT research, visit the ICEEFT site (text used by permission of CCEFT).
Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy
- To expand and re-organize key emotional responses—the music of the attachment dance.
- To create a shift in partners' interactional positions and initiate new cycles of interaction.
- To foster the creation of a secure bond between partners.
Strengths of Emotionally Focused Therapy
- EFT is based on clear, explicit conceptualizations of marital distress and adult love. These conceptulizations are supported by empirical research on the nature of marital distress and adult attachment.
- 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 nine steps and three change events.
- EFT has been validated by over 20 years of empirical research. There is also research on the change processes and predictors of success.
- EFT has been applied to many different kinds of problems and populations. (Source)
Watch a 20-minute video of Dr. Sue Johnson, the founder of EFT, explain what EFT is and its significance for couple relationship satisfaction.