Have you heard of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, aka EFT, is an evidence based therapy, meaning simply that research has been done on the process/outcome. In fact, of all the couple therapy models available, EFT documents the most research and incidentally with a particularly good outcome. They define a short term structured approach of 8-20 sessions (although in practice it can realistically go longer). Research shoes that after 12 sessions 70-75% of couples who were “distressed” became “non-distressed” and 86-96% of those were “much improved”. Impressive statistics that certainly warrant a go if your relationship is in any kind of trouble.

EFT combines a humanistic experiential approach to restructuring the emotional experience and a systematic structural approach to restructuring interactions. In simple language, it deals with the emotions. Applicable to treatment too is Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).

All kinds of issues bring couples into therapy. Yet at the heart of EFT is the presumption that in some way our basic attachment has been injured. Injuries might include a betrayal at a crucial moment of need, a relationship trauma (infidelity) and an impasse where there are blocks to reconnection.  Examples of these might be: a partner’s hostility directed towards the spouse regarding a loved one who may have just passed, infidelity or stepping outside to intimacy with a person or substance and lastly a block that may involve longstanding fears of connection in one or both parties.

Research shows that couples fight about many things, with sex, money and kids topping the list. Attachment based theories address the connection because with strong connections anything can be resolved or managed. (BTW 67% of couples issues are not resolved but managed according to John Gottman, another couples researcher). It is through the abandonment, ever so slight that it may be, that we become insecure, lose our emotional balance, become flooded with anxiety and often panic.

EFT is essentially a powerful approach that, from where I see it, can supplement various orientations. It is not, however, indicated or will undermine progress  in situations where attachment injuries are ongoing or have not been revealed. These might include infidelity, violent behavior and unacknowledged addictions. (Whether or not to disclose secrets are beyond the scope of this piece).

Having had some training in EFT and the Gottman method I can safely say that there is qualified help for couples and it is not always negotiating “piloting a helicopter in a hurricane”.