emotionally focused therapyWelcome. Congratulations on looking to take your relationship to a deeper level of connection. Through the chaos of our daily lives including work, stress, children, and families, many couples struggle to maintain the spark of connection that ignited the relationship in the beginning. Observing this dynamic, in 1980 Sue Johnson sought to create a therapeutic approach that focuses on attachments and secure bonds. Johnson coined her work Emotionally Focused Therapy, also known as EFT. To summarize the breadth of her work and the importance of connection Johnson said; “conflict is the inflammation, emotional disconnection is the virus.”

How does it work?

Sue Johnson was able to identify that most arguments are stem from each individual reaching out to ask their partner questions such as: “Will you be there for me?”, “Can I count on you?”, and “If I call will you come?” These questions speak to our human need for attachment and are formed and influenced by our families of origin. Thus, EFT is able to remove the focus from the conflict of the content such as “who empties the dishwasher “or “arriving late for dinner” to address the deeper struggles with emotional disconnection such as the vulnerability of asking for our attachment needs and fears. Johnson is able to identify each couples negative dance that often involves ones demands or withdrawals within her “demon dialogues” to help couples move towards changing the music of the dance towards de-escalation. As couples are able to change the music to their dance, from what once was filled with attacking and defending the interaction turns into a healing environment that can provide a safe haven.

To simply put it, your therapist is going to work with you through the 9 stages of EFT towards connection. The initial phase which encompasses stages 1-4 is known as the “asses and deescalate phase” which allows a space for the therapist to uncover the primary underlying emotion through presenting the context and patterns. The second phase is known as the “change events phase” that encompasses stages 5-7 where needs and wants are identified as well as partner acceptance. Lastly the couple moves into the last phase known as “consolidation of change phase” with stages 8 and 9 where new patterns are formed and old conflicts are solved much easier since the attachment questions have been answered and supported. However each of these stages and phases are often done with out the awareness of the couples as the therapist moves them through enactments that feel like more productive and vulnerably emotional conversations.

So how successful is EFT and will it work for us?

Emotionally focused therapy has been proven for several years to be an effective tool to bring couples back together. So much so that research studies have found that approximately 90 percent show significant improvement while even 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery. Couples that are dealing with PTSD, sexual abuse history, grief, chronic illness, depression and process addictions such as eating disorders and sexual addiction have found EFT to be an effective treatment tool. This also applies to couples that span different cultures, education levels and types of relationships. Thus, no matter the differences each couple may have, Sue Johnson and EFT believes “that if we can help a couple create a safe emotional bond, then every time a huge stressor comes towards you, you can reach for each other and support each other. Not only does that help you to deal with the stressor, but it cements your bond.”

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