Couples Counseling Articles

What’s Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and How Does It Work?

What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

In the world of counseling and psychotherapy, there are over 200 different modalities for helping people.

If you find it downright overwhelming to select the right therapist and method for you….you are not alone.

Most folks are still unaware that when it comes to relationships, there is one approach that stands out from the rest: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).

It’s a unique, non-blaming, evidence-based approach to healing human relationships.

EFT is also short-term and collaborative; an approach that focuses on the emotional bonds between people.

Developed in the 1980s, EFT is based on clear, explicit research that shows it is the most effective method on the planet for couples. But it’s not just for couples – EFT is also used with individuals and families to address depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to repair family bonds.

What sets EFT apart is its effectiveness along with its humanistic and non-pathologizing approach. This means that there is no shame-no blame in EFT.

Instead, the focus is on helping partners identify and change negative patterns that lead to their reactive behaviors.

At the heart of EFT is the understanding that emotions are a primary organizer of our experiences and relationship interactions. For example, recurring arguments that leave one feeling numb or empty are a good indicator of negative patterns that have taken over a loving relationship.

The primary function of emotion is to inform – ourselves and others – what our needs and goals are. As humans, when we tune into our emotions, we can better understand ourselves and others. Tuning in also helps us communicate our emotions clearly and effectively.

If we block our emotions, disregard them, or numb them out, it’s like living without a compass. We become cut off from ourselves and less able to tune in to others.

EFT recognizes that love is all about connection…and connection is the ultimate emotion everyone needs to thrive. When love feels tentative and our emotional bonds are at risk, we feel it. That’s when our relationships become distressed.

By focusing on emotions and how they organize the structure of our relationships…and they do!… EFT helps couples create a more secure attachment bond, leading to a stronger, healthier relationship.

So, what are the six basic emotions that an EFT therapist focuses on?

  • Anger: Of course, there are times when anger can move us into positive assertiveness. It can also lead us into rage, meltdowns and destructive behaviors.
  • Sadness: There are times when grief and sadness make sense. When sadness results from a felt sense of rejection, abandonment, or emptiness, things are less clear in our minds.
  • Surprise: Welcome surprises can lead us to explore and discover new things about ourselves and our partners. But unwelcome surprises will lead to disappointment and overwhelm.
  • Disgust/Shame: Disgust and shame are so powerful they shut us down and numb us out. We learn to hide and avoid.
  • Fear: Fear moves us into a fight, flight or freeze response.
  • Joy: Joy is the emotion that creates engagement. We love joy! Typically, it’s not an emotion people walk in with… but it does emerge over time.

By focusing on emotions and their impact on the relationship, EFT helps couples create a more secure attachment, leading to a stronger, healthier relationship.

This collaborative approach recognizes that love is all about connection. At Wellness, we help couples identify and change negative patterns, reduce reactive behaviors, and improve emotional connection.

In our view, EFT is the perfect choice for couples looking to heal their relationships and strengthen their emotional bonds.

We feel fortunate to be EFT Therapists who get to use this powerful healing method everyday!