When it comes to relationships, what can make or break them are emotions. You were attracted to your partner because of emotions, so it's natural that strong negative emotion can destroy the relationship. Sometimes, emotional experience trump logic, and emotion-focused therapy (EFT) might be the solution you need.
EFT therapy is a person-centered approach that focuses on a person's emotions and the response to said emotions. Also called process experiential therapy, it was first developed in 1985. In the 1980s, divorce rates were at an all-time high, and psychologists Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg were trying to find a better way to help couples solve their differences. This led to them discovering that most of the problems couples face come from a cycle of reinforcing emotions that go back and forth between them. Emotion is not just one individual, but a web that can weave between partners.
As an emotion-focused approach, EFT has been evolving since the first manual was published 30 years ago in university training centers, with many new steps added since then. EFT also can be used for family members and even for individuals. Many couples find it helpful. Why? Because they learn to understand each other's emotions, as well as be self-aware of their emotional responses.
What Theory Does EFT Use?
Although EFT can be used in a clinical psychology contemporary psychotherapy setting, it focuses on the attachment theory of human functioning. Attachment theory originally focused on infants and their primary caregivers, but it was soon discovered that adults also have attachments of their own. Attachment theory studies the effects of interpersonal relationships and emotional experience between humans. Many humans develop adaptive emotions as babies and feel safer when they're around a loved one. This helped spring EFT to life.
You may have someone you're attached to, be it your spouse, family member, or friend. There are some who are loners, but even the most antisocial tend to have at least one person they're attached to. Do you ever feel like that person will abandon you? The EFT model says that sometimes, relationships going bad can be due to the fear of abandonment, even if it doesn't show. Your response to the fear of abandonment may end up making your relationship worse, almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Then there is the cycle of negative emotional patterns during change processes. If your partner is in distress, you may become frustrated as you attempt to understand them. This can increase your negative emotion, which can amplify theirs, and it's like playing hot potato with a lit bomb. It's going to explode in someone's face eventually.
You may feel like you understand your partner's emotions, and maybe you do to a point, but no one can get in someone's head. And even if you could, many can't even understand their own emotions. Many therapists won't be able to understand someone's emotions entirely, but their techniques can make the emotions more visible. EFT focuses on the feeling many couples have, and that's insecurity.
Everyone has insecurity to some degree. Every couple has asked "Do they love me?" to themselves or their partner. There's always the fear that someone better will take them away, or they'll no longer need you.
This can stem from many things, from you being abandoned by someone when you were younger to the basic attachment an infant has with their caregiver. Whatever the cause, EFT teaches people how to eliminate those insecurities and have a revitalized emotional connection to their partner.
Talking to a therapist who will listen and empathize with you can give you better results. Therapists know how relationships work. Every situation is different, but there are many emotional similarities a therapist can jump on to fix the relationship.
The Steps Of EFT
With many treatments, the techniques are broken down into steps. People like when treatment comes in steps, and it's easy to follow. EFT specifically has nine steps that are divided into three phases. Here is the basic outline.
Phase One: Deescalate The Problem
Whatever the situation is, the therapist needs to put an end to the anger and bickering so that they can help to fix the relationship. This is divided into four steps.
If this works, the couple's argument should calm down, and then it's on to phase two.
Phase Two: Changing Patterns
In this phase, the couples are taught how to interact better and express their emotional needs. This is divided into three steps.
Now, the couple should be on their way to understanding each other.
Now, we're in the final stretch, and there are only two steps this time.
When it comes to relationships, there tend to be problems that stem from a lack of communication. You may think you know your partner quite well, and that can be your downfall. You may never know what's in their head, and due to that, you may end up destroying the relationship. EFT helps to find common ground and communication based on that.
EFT has evolved to be more than just couple counseling. Here are a few other uses.
It makes sense. A lot of family issues can stem from attachment worries and a lack of communication about emotions. For instance, as a child enters adolescence, they may have a slew of emotions they want to tell their parents, but they just can't. Even in adulthood, EFT is good to help reconnect with your loved ones.
If a person has depression or some other trauma, EFT may be an effective tool in fighting it. A person may learn to figure out the cause of their depression, be it an attachment to someone else or a trauma. They're then taught to write down a plan to help conquer their problems.
When it comes to therapy, the biggest question you may have is, "Does this work?" You don't want to invest time and money into a temporary bandage, after all.
No therapy is 100 percent effective, and some couples just can't settle their differences without separating, but EFT is found to be effective for most people. It's true that couples tend to have attachment issues, and by figuring out the root emotions and learning how to handle that, the couple can move on to have a happy, healthy relationship.
EFT tends not to be a temporary bandage. There will be follow-up appointments, and most couples keep using the techniques and end up having a happy, healthy life with each other.
No matter how close you are with your partner, you're going to have hiccups, and sometimes it feels like it can be the end. When in all actuality, you just need some therapy with them to get the relationship moving on the right track.
To summarize, here are some of the benefits you may experience with EFT.
If you and your partner were meant to be, you can't miss out on EFT if there is a problem that you just can't fix.
If you, your partner, a family member, or just someone you know is struggling with relationship issues, try EFT. Don't wait for the problem to fix itself, because that may end up in separation. There are plenty of outlets out there to help you find a therapist who's right for you and your partner. Whether in-person or online, you can learn to know your differences and move on to have a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Commonly Asked Questions
What does emotion-focused therapy treat?
There’s a substantial body of empirical research that demonstrates that emotion focused therapy (EFT), or emotion coaching, can be effective method for a number of mental health concerns both in individual therapy and couples therapy. Benefits of this therapeutic approach can include:
What are the three stages of emotionally focused therapy?
The three stages or phases of emotionally focused family therapy are the same in individual therapy and couples therapy:
Does EFT work for couples?
Yes, EFT is a popular technique for adult love relationships and families. This reflective approach can help couples going through intense emotional experiences or key moves that define a relationship to form stronger bonds and healthy adult attachment, become more aware of their partner’s needs, learn helpful change strategies to better cope with problems in the future.
Emotion focused therapy, or process experiential therapy, is one of the most common therapeutic strategies used to treat mental health challenges and relationship problems. This experiential approach leads therapists and clients towards awareness, acceptance, and expression of emotion. It is also used to educate and create accurate and correct emotional responses to situations when a client doesn’t seem to have an understanding of their (or significant other’s) emotions or reactions. This type of therapy uses emotions to guide treatment and the goals are strengthening the self and creating new meaning in cognitive behavioral thinking.
Typically, emotion focused therapy (eft) is a short term therapy style that takes between eight to twenty sessions in order to move through all the stages. Emotion focused therapy is often used in conjunction with other types of therapy and emotional awareness exercises that are person centered. This type of therapy has been empirically supported through evidence based studies and EFT research, and two to five months of treatment is the usual amount of time.
There are typically three phases and nine steps of emotion focused therapy. The first phase is made up of four steps: identifying the conflict, identify the cycle where the conflict is expressed, access unacknowledged emotions, and reframe the argument so that the victims work together. The second phase is made up of three steps: promote identification of disowned needs, promote partner acceptance, and facilitate expression of needs and wants. Finally, the third phase is made up of the final two steps: new solutions and consolidation of the previous steps. This type of therapy can help people learn new ways to treat emotions and situations, as well as deal with mental health concerns. Emotion coaching, under emotion focused therapy eft, is a clinical psychology strategy meant to help a person tackle emotional experiences and learn to overcome challenges associated with understanding their emotions.
What does psychodynamic therapy focus on?
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the unconscious processes of the mind and how they interact with the conscious decisions a person may make. Good therapy that uses a psychodynamic strategy will effectively help a client build self awareness and an understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior. This type of therapy, as with emotion focused therapy, is a holistic approach that focuses on the underlying cause behind a person’s action, rather than just the action itself. Therapist find that psychodynamic therapy can be quite effective for therapy emotion coaching and focused therapy for depression.
What are the 3 types of therapy?
The main three types of therapy used are: psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and humanistic therapy. All these types have subsets that are effective at helping a client learn to use their emotions to guide their thoughts and actions in a healthy manner. Emotion focused therapy is typically used alongside some of the above therapy types and the combination can have beneficial effects on a person’s mental health. Case studies have been done into all the different kinds of therapy and the above three were the most commonly used types. Find a treatment plan that works for you and find a private practice that specializes in the type of therapy best suited to your specific needs. For some, emotionally focused therapy may be what is needed whereas others may find strategies such as humanistic therapy to be more effective.
What can EFT help with?
Emotion focused therapy is an effective strategy for probing emotions in a client and getting to the root cause of those emotions. Therapy emotion tapping is a strategy used in EFT where therapist find the cause of strong emotions in your psychology in order to help a client come to terms with their emotions. As a whole, emotion focused therapy can be beneficial at treating a range of mental health challenges such as eating disorders or other issues. Find a therapist who specializes in emotion focused therapy at a treatment center near you if you believe this strategy of therapy can help.
Can EFT cure anxiety?
EFT is an effective focused therapy for depression and anxiety. An emotionally focused therapy treatment center can help a client cope with anxiety through therapy emotion exercises and professional advice. Continuing education focuses on exploring all the benefits of EFT, but studies conducted in the modern day have found that EFT professional advice can be quite helpful at treating anxiety. It’s worth mentioning that there is no cure for anxiety, but a treatment center can help anybody manage their symptoms. It’s advised that, as a therapist, you should list your practice and continuing education experience, so that a client can find a treatment option that aligns with their needs best.