For the last week, I’ve been learning a new form of couples therapy to expand the marriage and couples counseling I do. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) was designed by Canadian psychologist Sue Johnson, Ph.D. This response to couples’ work will be very instrumental to me and my practice in helping more couples out of distress, fighting, and breaking old, negative patterns that they get stuck in.
EFT describes three major shifts in it’s approach. First, the EFT couples counselor and the couple work together to identify the negative cycle that the couple has been stuck in. The cycle is seen as something different from the two partners who’ve originated it: it’s identified and depersonalized from any one person, thus helping a struggling couple work together to become aware of it, and minimize it. The cycle – after being identified – is then de-escalated, with the help of the couples therapist.
The next objective of EFT couples counseling is to help the identified “withdrawer” in the couple (often the man, but not always) re-engage in the marriage or relationship. Basically, the more withdrawn partner (emotional or behavioral withdrawal) begins to become more engaged in the relationship at this point.
Third, EFT helps to “soften the blamer” in the relationship. This is when the previously hostile relationship partner (often times the partner who is more active) risks expressing their vulnerabilities and unmet needs.
EFT is based on attachment theory, a model of psychology that says that everyone is wired socially, and we need healthy, functional ways to attach to others for our survival. Often times, those attachment relationships growing up were compromised, and the way we sometimes ineffectively seek to meet our needs creates problems in our relationships or marriage. EFT helps to identify these needs, emotions and behavioral patterns that we get stuck in.
I’m excited to start to help more struggling couples with this form of counseling. It seems to be very promising, and research-supported, and welcome you to call my practice for more information about EFT couples work to help your relationship or marriage.