Emotionally-focused therapy (EFT)
Emotionally-focused therapy (EFT) is an evidence-based approach which can be used while working with couples, families, or individuals. The tenets of EFT are grounded in ideas rooted primarily in attachment science. The goal of EFT is to establish secure and positive connections between partners, or parents and their children. Through EFT, clients are able to work with their therapist to identify unhealthy interactional patterns which cause distress and turmoil in their relationships and lives.
Goals and Basis of Emotionally-Focused Therapy
A primary goal of EFT is to enhance emotional awareness and therefore intelligence, equipping clients to be accessible, responsive and engaged partners or parents. Your EFT therapist will help you recognize your feelings and met and unmet emotional needs, and to identify emotional and attachment fears. Identifying these is a crucial first step to developing secure attachment bonds not just with others, but with oneself. This allows for you to have healthier and relatively more adaptive interactional patterns with close others in your life. EFT is based on science, namely the role of significant life relationships in childhood and their role in establishing a relational blueprint and certain self-view that informs future relationships. EFT maintains that individuals often construct and deconstruct meanings of themselves through the interactions that they have within significant relationships. This could look like an example as simple as being told you are unworthy by a parent or partner in high school, which could then continue to shape how you view yourself for the years to come. Such important relational experiences inform our self-concept and continue to influence it. Likewise, positive relational experiences entail an experience that bolsters our sense of worth. In addition, attachment science demonstrates that when faces with negative relational experiences, we tend to turn on ourselves, rather than turn on the other person involved; as a coping mechanism that gives us a sense of control over the situation, though arguably a false one. For example, a child will glean that there is something wrong with him if a parent treats him poorly, and following getting cheated on a person will grapple with thoughts of feeling unworthy of love and loyalty. This is significant as it leads to immense negative self-talk and self-perceptions. EFT also addresses the ideas of attachment injuries. By virtue of being human, we all have certain attachment needs which we require to thrive, which may include the need to feel loved, to feel safe, or to feel seen. However, sometimes there are certain events that occur at certain points of our life which leave an attachment injury. This could look like being abandoned by a parent during childhood, or being cheated on by a partner. These injuries often become the root of attachment fears and an anxious-attachment style could be established. These attachment fears continue to influence the attachment and interactional patterns we have throughout life, until we identify and work on them.
Rupture and Repair
EFT also highlights the role of rupture and repair. Ruptures occur in healthy and unhealthy relationships alike however repair is a way to strengthen our attachment bonds. Repair is the antidote to ruptures. Learning how to come together after ruptures and do the work of repair cannot be overlooked.
EFT therapists aim to create a strong therapeutic bond rooted in warmth, empathy, and collaboration. By doing so, they model this for each partner, who may have not otherwise seen what an accessible, responsive and engaged partner looks like. EFT therapists also create a safe space in which clients are able to identify their patterns that may have very deep roots. Through doing so, clients are able to acknowledge and address their most vulnerable emotions and establish healthier patterns which reduce distress within their relationships and lives.
Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson