Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a well known approach to couples therapy developed in the 1980’s. It is an approach that grew from a scientific approach looking at attachment, and its impact on intimate relationships. EFT has been rigorously studied and shown to be effective.
The approach looks at emotion and how our attempts at emotion regulation co-creates the painful communication often experience by couples in distress. This means that the emotional experience an individual has is created and influenced within the shared space of the relationship. EFT looks to help couples see the patterns of interaction they are stuck in, the signals they send to each other, and the reaction these unintended signals create. Couples often find themselves stuck and unable to communicate because their attempts to communicate create a reaction that takes over. For instance many couples get stuck in one person trying to talk while the other walks away. What is unknown and not communicated is that the couple has become stuck in a defensive position. Their attempts to talk may come across as an accusation, while the other may believe they are making things worse and naturally, the best thing to do is step back and not say anything. In defensive communication one may come across stern, or have a sharp tone, while the other is dismissive and uninterested. This may be interpreted as an accusation, or blame or simply having checked out of the relationship. The pain of experiencing the one you love as uninterested or blaming further triggers a reactivity between that continues to further the defensive response. The attempt to protect in an accusation and shutting down communicates unimportance and valuelessness in the relationship. Resentments grow and disconnection and isolation sets in. EFT helps couples communicate with each other about the deeper experience of those moments. Helping couples become unguarded communicating clearly their positions of need, hurts and desires for their relationship.
The goal of EFT is to help couples create new patterns of communication that foster a secure connection, done through experiencing new conversations guided and explored with the couples therapist.