What is Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT)?
Emotionally-Focused Therapy, also sometimes referred to as Couples Therapy, is a therapy approach based on the idea that one’s emotions create his/her identity. More specifically, one’s emotions can help us make sound decisions and choices. This therapy approach assumes that if one lacks awareness of his/her emotions, or if he/she deliberately avoids unpleasant and/or negative emotions, he/she is unable to fully process the information those feelings provide him/her.
Therapists with EFT training and experience can help individuals and couples with their communication strategies, and coping abilities, conflict-resolution, and stress-management skills. They can also help these individuals become more attuned to their emotions, more equipped at using the information provided by these feelings, and better able to cope with difficult feelings that they experience in their daily lives.
EFT utilizes an empirical method that draws from the principles of a variety of psychotherapy approaches, such as Person-Centered Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and/or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Therefore, the ultimate goal of EFT is to help individuals look within themselves to get a better understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others.
What Can a Person Learn from EFT?
Most EFT sessions focus on helping individuals develop two crucial skills – (1) better identification and understand their emotions, so they can apply them to real-world situations, and (2) the ability to properly use their emotions to better understand the information they provide, while avoiding harmful or negative behaviors at the same time.
What are the Main Functions of EFT Therapists?
The main functions of EFT therapists are to assist their clients by adopting a non-judgmental, safe, empathetic, and compassionate approach to the therapy process. Their primary goals are to actively listen, observe, and guide individuals, so they can better understand their emotional needs – as individuals and as partners.
EFT therapists also use a variety of tools to help individuals learn healthier ways to channel their emotions, so they can use them as guides for their behaviors. Moreover, they help these individuals address any negative and stressful feelings or belief systems that could be causing conflict in their personal lives, at their jobs, in their families, with their children and/or parents, with friends, and/or with romantic partners or spouses.
What Issues Do EFT Therapists Typically Treat?
EFT therapists typically treat a wide variety of issues. They tend to focus on individuals and couples who struggle in their personal lives, with loved ones, at their jobs, and/or in their relationships or marriages. Their main focus is to help these individuals and couples identify and address unhealthy, destructive, and/or possibly dangerous emotions that could be affecting their thought processes and behaviors.
For example, an EFT therapist may treat a depressed person, who spends the majority of his/her time alone. More specifically, this individual may make a deliberate effort to escape or avoid situations that cause him/her sadness.
On the flip side, an EFT therapist may also treat a person who suffers from a type of anxiety that prevents him/her from leaving their home. This individual may feel unable to leave the home and/or socialize with others because of his/her excessive worrying, irrational fears, and unnecessary concerns.
Primarily, however, EFT therapists help individuals and couples learn how to properly address their emotions and concerns, so they can begin to view their feelings as valuable sources of information – rather than, simply as difficult and/or painful states.
Studies suggest that because EFT mainly focuses on the impact and regulation of emotions, it can be highly beneficial in the treatment of a variety of psychological issues.
It is important to note, however, that although EFT was originally used to treat depression, it has since become common practice in the mental health world. It is typically used to address a variety of issues from depression, anxiety, neglect, abuse, domestic violence, suicidal thoughts, and attempts, eating disorders, relationship issues, addiction, borderline personality disorder, manic-depression (bipolar disorder), self-esteem and self-confidence issues, and even financial problems.
What Happens During the Initial EFT Therapy Sessions?
During the initial therapy sessions, an EFT therapist helps individuals and couples identify and understand their emotions.
Ultimately, clients may discover new ways to do the following:
- More accurately identify and understand their emotions
- Embrace and regulate their emotions
- Become more aware of their emotions
- Experience an increased awareness of emotional situations
During the first, second, third, and subsequent sessions, the therapist may assign the individual or couple the following goals:
- How to develop personal “conversational/communication scripts” or predetermined responses to social situations. (The purpose of these “pre-formed scripts” is to help individuals and couples challenge their own unhealthy and destructive thoughts because they are negatively impacting their emotions and behaviors.)
- How to properly question and challenge inaccurate, irrational, and unhealthy emotions and belief systems
- How to correctly identify and address the true source of one’s distress
- How to use helpful emotions as guides for behavior
- How to properly evaluate the difference between “helpful” and “unhelpful” emotions
Note: EFT is most successful when the individual or couple develops an increased awareness of their own emotions – and how these emotions affect others. Moreover, to achieve success with this form of psychotherapy, individuals and couples must be able to improve (with time, effort, and patience) their ability to analyze, identify, and regulate their emotions, thus, reducing and/or eliminating unhealthy, stressful, and/or destructive behaviors.
What Should I Look for in an EFT Therapist?
If you are considering seeking EFT, you should look for a therapist that is highly trained in EFT techniques, methods, and approaches. This person must be able to help you better identify, address, and manage your emotions – in all situations.
The good news is that research suggests that Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) is successful for many people, however, it’s important to find an EFT therapist, who makes you feel comfortable and safe during the therapy process.
Keep in mind that EFT centers on trust, “openness,” honesty, empathy, patience, respect, and understanding, so it is important that you set up consultations with a variety of EFT therapists until you find the right one for you.
Ask for references from previous clients, success rates, possible approaches, the cost of services, education and training, experience, length of therapy, etc.
The key to success with this therapy method is to try to approach each concept with an open mind, so you can be “open enough” to receive the tools needed to help you get back on track in your life.
Soloski, K., & Deitz, S. (2016). Managing emotional responses in therapy: An adapted EFT supervision approach. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 38(4), 361–372. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-016-9392-8
Wiebe, S. A., & Johnson, S. M. (2016). A review of the research in emotionally-focused therapy for couples. Family Process, 55(3), 390–407. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12229
Peluso, P. R., & MacIntosh, H. (2007). Emotionally-focused couples therapy and individual psychology: A dialogue across theories. Journal of Individual Psychology, 63(3), 247–269. Retrieved from Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a2h&AN=26853261&site=ehost-live
Rowe, J. E. (2005). The effects of EFT on long-term psychological symptoms. Counseling & Clinical Psychology Journal, 2(3), 104–111. Retrieved from Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a2h&AN=18015987&site=ehost-live
Greenman, P. S., & Johnson, S. M. (2013). Process research on emotionally-focused therapy ( EFT) for couples: Linking theory to practice. Family Process, 52(1), 46–61. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12015