Emotions are usually an integral part of relationships, playing a crucial role in forming a secure attachment with our partners. They're often what attracts us to our partners and what binds us to them throughout the relationship. Emotions also tend to provide us with the feelings of dependability that often accompany familial ties and unconditional love.
However, just as emotions can forge healthy bonds, strong negative emotions can cause difficulty in relationships, leading to negative interaction patterns. Sometimes, emotions can become stronger than “rational thought” and can cause misunderstandings and conflict in relationships. In those cases, emotion-focused therapy (EFT) may help.
EFT therapy, often applied in couples therapy tends to be centered on the individual, their emotions, and the response to those emotions in the context of their intimate relationships with others. If you're curious about the difference between emotion-focused therapy and somatic therapy, the former focuses on emotion regulation as the key component while the latter emphasizes the connection of mind and body.
The EFT therapists aimed to find a better way to help couples dealing with their differences. This led them to the discovery that, in the case of their clients, most of the problems they faced came from negative patterns of reinforcing emotions between them.
As an emotion-focused approach, EFT has been evolving since the first manual was published 30 years ago in university training centers, with the change process involving many new steps added since then. Clients of therapists who use EFT may find it helpful because they learn emotional regulation and understand others' emotions, in addition to acquiring self-awareness of their own emotional responses.
The EFT model operates on the concept that sometimes relationships can devolve for a variety of reasons, even if they aren't outwardly apparent. If these attachment needs are not addressed, the problems in the relationship can become much larger, resulting in separation and/or intense mental health problems outside the relationship, further affecting the secure bond between partners.
The Theory Behind The Emotion-Focused Therapy Method
EFT typically 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. Attachment theory is related to the effects of interpersonal relationships and emotional experiences between humans. Many humans develop adaptive emotions as babies and feel safer when they're around a loved one. This helped develop the theory behind EFT.
Almost everyone has experienced adult attachment of some type to another person. One of the most common, and sometimes painful, challenges that can cause problems in relationships is fear of abandonment from those we've formed family bonds with. An EFT therapist, who practices emotionally focused family therapy, may be able to help you identify and address any potential fear of abandonment.
Another focus of EFT is the concept of change and the cycle of negative emotional patterns that may occur in relationships. Sometimes the complications of change are harder to cope with within the framework of a relationship than they may otherwise be as an individual. EFT may help address those concerns and help clients move past them.
Whether there is insecurity, resentment, miscommunication, or another situation that is causing problems in your relationship, a family therapy specialist who listens to you and your family members may be able to provide you with helpful tools to move forward and resolve concerns related to attachment.
What Does Emotion-Focused Therapy Treat?
EFT isn’t only effective for helping couples; it can also be beneficial for treating individuals with a range of mental health challenges, such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and trauma. It can also be helpful for families to resolve attachment and communication problems. Whether it’s for individuals, families, or couples, the benefits of this therapeutic approach can include:
- Greater emotional awareness, management, and well-being
- Greater ability to cope with unhelpful emotions and certain mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and personality disorders
- Greater impulse control
- Effective restructuring of interactions in love relationships that may have prevented couples from forming a bond
- Greater empathy
The Three Stages Of Emotion-Focused Therapy
As with many treatments, the techniques of EFT are broken down into stages. The following are the typical three stages of EFT, but they may vary depending on the individual therapy approach, individual practice preferences, and the needs of the couple or individual involved:
Stage One: De-escalation
Whatever the situation, before EFT can work, the therapist often needs to try to calm anger and related arguments so they can proceed with stage one of treatment. This stage is divided into four steps:
- The therapist identifies the concerns the couples have, whether they are related to finances, insecurity, aging, etc.
- Then, the therapist identifies how those concerns can create negative emotions and negative interactions that damage the relationship. These usually appear in patterns.
- The therapist looks for fears and emotions that may be hiding beneath the conscious mind and may be causing those negative interactions.
- The therapist then explores with the couple how the main conflict is connected to those underlying emotions.
Stage Two: Changing Patterns
In this stage, couples are typically taught how to interact better and express their emotional needs. This is divided into three steps:
- The couple can discuss their deep-rooted emotions, as well as their wants and needs.
- Each partner is taught different ways to empathize and accept their partner's needs.
- The partners are then taught to express their emotions and needs and to discuss these needs without conflict in the future.
Stage Three: Integrating
This stage includes two steps:
- The therapist presents the couple with ways to communicate with their partner and to create better solutions for problems in the past, present, and future.
- Couples leave therapy prepared to use the coping strategies they’ve learned. In this step, the therapist may ask the couple to make a concrete plan for better interaction should a difficult situation arise.
Does Emotion-Focused Therapy Work?
No kind of therapy is 100% effective. Some couples find they can't settle their differences without separating, but EFT research indicates that it has been effective for most people.
Part of EFT’s effectiveness may be due to its thorough, continuous influence on the couple’s relationship beyond the initial treatment, restructuring interactions and fostering a safe haven. There are typically follow-up appointments, and most couples keep using the techniques throughout their relationship.
Some couples choose to see a therapist in person at an office to focus on the family process, but with the rise in popularity of online therapy, many are opting to speak with a therapist from home instead. Couple’s therapy can be an emotional experience, and for many, addressing those emotions is much easier from the comfort of home.
Online therapy has been shown to be just as effective as in-person therapy, and you can usually choose how to communicate with your therapist. With BetterHelp, you can contact your therapist via phone, videoconference, or in-app messaging. Take the first step to a stronger relationship and reach out to BetterHelp today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is EFT used for?
Emotion-focused therapy, or process experiential therapy, is 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 couples on how to develop appropriate emotional responses to difficult situations. This type of therapy uses emotions to guide treatment and the goals are strengthening the self and creating new meaning in cognitive behavioral thinking.
How long does EFT take?
Typically, emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is a short-term therapy method that takes between eight to twenty sessions in order to move through all the stages. It is often used in conjunction with other types of therapy and emotional awareness exercises that are person-centered.
What does psychodynamic treatment work 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 should 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 actions. Many therapists find that psychodynamic therapy can be quite effective for therapy emotion coaching and focused therapy for depression.
Can EFT cure anxiety?
EFT is an effective, focus therapy for depression and anxiety. An emotionally focused couples therapy treatment center is not only for couples but it can also 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 in treating anxiety. It’s worth mentioning that there is no cure for anxiety, but a treatment center can help most people manage their symptoms.
Is EFT scientifically proven?
Is EFT effective for trauma?
- Previous Article
- Next Article