What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (Couples Therapy)

Emotionally Focused Therapy, or EFT is an approach to therapeutic treatment based on the idea that our emotions create our identity, as a key for decision making and choice. This type of therapy assumes that, if we lack awareness of our emotions, or avoid unpleasant emotion, then we’re unable to understand the information that those feelings can give us.

Therapists with EFT qualifications can be useful to couples seeking help for a variety of concerns with their communication strategies, as they can help them to gain a greater awareness of their emotions, become better at using information provided by feelings, and cope with difficult feelings too.

As an empirical approach that draws from the principles of person-centered, Gestalt, and cognitive behavioral therapies, EFT helps people to look inside themselves and better understand their own emotions, while helping couples to understand the feelings of each other.

Methods Used in EFT

Most EFT sessions focus on developing two crucial skills. The first is about arriving at an emotion through increased acceptance and awareness, while the second involves learning to use emotions to better understand the information that they provide, while avoiding harmful or negative behaviors.

EFT therapists assist their clients by taking a non-judgmental and compassionate approach to questioning and listening, to best help couples arrive at a better understanding of their emotional needs. Usually, these techniques help people to learn new ways to use their emotions to guide their behaviors, helping individuals move on from feelings that might have caused rifts in relationships in the past.

During initial therapy sessions, which often focus on helping people to understand their emotions, clients may discover techniques that help them to:

  • Learn to describe emotions more clearly
  • Welcome and regulate emotions
  • Become more aware of emotions
  • Increase awareness of the various levels of emotional experiences encountered

During the second phase of treatment, the following goals might be introduced:

  • Forming personal scripts that help to challenge destructive thoughts associated with negative emotions
  • Learning to challenge unhelpful emotions
  • Identifying the source of difficult emotions
  • Learning to use helpful emotions when guiding action
  • Evaluating the difference between helpful and unhelpful emotions

EFT is most successful when the individual or couple in question has been able to develop an increased awareness of their emotional position, as well as improving their ability to regulate emotions and transform unhelpful feelings.

Why Use EFT Therapists?

Usually, many of the different issues that ultimately bring people to therapy, and cause couples to struggle with their relationship, can be maintained and exacerbated by unsuccessful attempts to manage emotions. For instance, people who suffer from depression spend a lot of time attempting to escape or avoid situations that cause sadness, while people with anxiety may be debilitated by their attempts to avoid worry and fear.

With EFT therapists, it’s possible for couples and individuals alike to address their emotions and concerns, so that they can begin to see their feelings for the valuable source of information they are – rather than difficult or painful states. Because EFT focuses on the impact and regulation of emotions – similarly to many areas of mental health, it can offer benefits in the treatment of a host of psychological issues.

Though it was originally used to treat depression, it has since expanded in the world of therapeutic practice to address everything from anxiety and neglect, to abuse, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, and couple’s interpersonal issues.

What to Look for When Choosing an EFT Therapist

EFT therapists and their unique methods of approaching and managing emotions can vary according to the case in question. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that Emotionally Focused Therapy can be successful, but it’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable working with alongside your partner. Like many therapeutic solutions, EFT is all about trust and understanding, so you may benefit from scheduling meetings with potential candidates before settling for any one professional. Try to approach the concept with an open mind and allow yourself to be receptive to thoughts and ideas as your EFT suggests the different ways they may be able to help you.