What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?

Definition of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

When you feel disconnected from your partner, you may be feeling frustrated, misunderstood, and vulnerable. One way to overcome these feelings could be through Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). If you feel like you are suffering from an emotional disconnect from your significant other, EFT may be the perfect counseling option for you. Before investing time in therapy, you need to know what to expect from the counseling you receive.

What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?

The focus of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is to help you and your partner to understand underlying emotional themes within your relationship.

Underlying emotional themes refer to your emotions, as well as how you respond emotionally to given situations. The way you express your emotions, and how you react to certain events in your life is relative to attachment theory.

As a child, you develop and learn patterns of interactions based on the relationship you shared with your caregivers. That early emotional development is typically carried out into adulthood.

Given that attachment theory plays such an important role in a romantic relationship, it may explain some of the emotional patterns of distress you and your spouse may be experiencing. For example, you or your partner may encounter emotions related to insecurity, avoiding emotional connection, or lack of trust, which causes significant distress within your marriage. Sometimes, emotional themes are difficult to identify, which is why EFT through marriage counseling can benefit you and your spouse by discovering your emotional needs.

Discover the Basis of Your Arguments:

One of the most crucial aspects of Emotionally Focused Therapy is that it can explain potential disconnections that could be driving you and your significant other into arguments and distress.

According to attachment theory, your basic emotional needs require that you feel loved, valued, and understood by your partner in order to experience a deep emotional connection with one another.

If an emotional distance is unaddressed, and allowed to worsen over time, the buildup of emotional anguish can lead to you or your partner feeling vulnerable and alone. When these feelings arise, tension, arguing, and avoidance are more prominent in your relationship.

Many cases of emotional disconnection are a result of communication issues within your relationship. Since EFT takes a non-linear approach (an approach based on your progress, not specific stages) to thinking and exploring emotional patterns exhibited by you or your partner, it can help you identify your emotions individually, and as a couple. In turn, EFT can improve your emotional connection and communication as a couple.

What Should You Expect from EFT?

Not knowing what to expect from therapy can be intimidating, which is why it is important to understand the potential goals and discoveries that may be experienced through EFT.

There are three main cycles that are explored during therapy: the de-escalation process, changing interaction patterns, and consolidation and integration.

De-escalation Cycle

The de-escalation cycle is crucial during the beginning stages of therapy because it encourages the couple to address their unattended emotional needs. This is where the main complications of your relationship are brought forward. Through the course of this cycle, you will be able to work through understanding the basis of negative emotional patterns and interactions, fears and attachment themes, and the unaddressed emotions and needs of you and your partner.

Changing Interaction Patterns

The second phase focuses on changing you and your partner’s interaction patterns. Through this cycle, the therapist will work with you as a couple on learning to express your emotions, as well as consider each other’s emotional needs. At this phase, you may start to see even more progress in your emotional connection with your spouse due to the positive emotional interactions you learn to experience together.

Consolidation and Integration

The last cycle involves consolidation and integration. This means that your emotional expression and response to your partner’s emotional needs are addressed through new styles of communication. Your therapist will assist you in developing the proper communication skills to provide consistent emotional support to one another.

There is no shame in receiving Emotionally Focused Therapy (or any kind of couples therapy); understanding your own emotional needs, as well as someone else’s can be difficult and overwhelming. If you feel emotionally disconnected from yourself and your spouse, it might be worth your time and effort to consider EFT.

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Emotionally Focused Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/emotionally-focused-therapy.

Estavillo, M. (2019, May 6). What is emotionally focused therapy or EFT? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=PvTxa_0ROlg

Feuerman, M. (2019, September 12). An Overview of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Retrieved November 6, 2019, from https://www.verywellmind.com/emotionally-focused-therapy-for-distressed-couples-2303813.

Johnson, S. M. (2009). Attachment Theory and Emotionally Focused Therapy for Individuals and Couples. Attachment Theory and Research in Clinical Work with Adults, 410–433. Retrieved from http://www.creatingconnections.nl/assets/files/Sue%20Johnson%20ObegiCh16.pdf

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