Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is an umbrella term used to describe a series of treatment approaches that use the quality of the relationship between people to help heal emotional injuries and repair dysfunctional patterns of interaction.
The goal of EFT is not to direct people to just do more of some behaviours and less of others; rather it highlights that the emotions people feel for each other are powerful and can influence partners and family members to behave in ways that either bring them closer together, or push them farther apart.
Developed in the early 1980s, emotionally-focused therapies are gaining strong, research support and being used in treatments for individuals, couples and families.
Effective Emotion-Focused Therapy for Couples
The primary area where we use EFT is for the treatment of issues in couples and family relationships. EFT for couples is a short-term treatment that usually lasts for about 20 sessions. Couples and families attend sessions over several months, learning how to recognize patterns of thought and behaviour that interfere in those important relationships. EFT works well because it focuses on three questions that hit at the heart of all important relationships: Do I matter to you? Are you there for me? Can I trust you to be there when I need you?
The answers to these questions is at the heart of what allows us to feel safe and secure in family and couple relationships. When we feel safe and secure, we are able to truly be ourselves, free and comfortable in our own skin.
EFT to Rebuild Relationships
We use EFT to help us create a safe environment in sessions, where family members and couples can talk openly about what they are feeling. We work to de-escalate conflicts, so people can really feel heard and understood. We also work to minimize defensiveness, so no one feels blamed or accused of being ‘the problem’. Our goal is to help people feel closer to one another so they can truly communicate exactly what they need from their important relationships.
By developing honest understandings of how each partner feels, couples begin to appreciate why difficulties have emerged. This gives them a helpful starting point for reaching compromise and moving forward with mutual respect; an effective long-term solution.
Emotion-Focused Therapy and Depression
EFT has been recognized by the American Psychological Association as an effective treatment for depression, thanks to the results of numerous empirical studies.
EFT works by unpacking the associated feelings and experiences that underpin depression. These can include sadness, despair, anger, frustration, and low mood. Patients may have had traumatic experiences that trigger and sustain episodes of depression. Using EFT techniques, therapist helps patients to understand and challenge their unhelpful emotions, which in turn can alleviate these feelings and contribute to a cessation of depression.
Emotion-Focused Therapy and Anxiety
Anxiety can be triggered by many things, including scary thoughts, past trauma, worries about health and medical issues, bereavement, and stress.
EFT, much like CBT, can help to get to the heart of anxiety, which often has its roots in insecure relationships. Your therapist will work with you to understand why you are feeling anxious and help you to learn to communicate what you need in those situations to others. You can use the skills you learn in therapy over many years, to address any later issues.
EFT and Childhood Trauma
Trauma sustained during childhood can have lifelong emotional consequences. Related emotions can include anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, sadness, and disassociation. Patients may have flashbacks and nightmares, and many struggle with trust.
Complex cases can require an integrated approach using several techniques, including EFT. As with other disorders, a therapist helps the patient to address what you feel in the context of your experiences. This allows you to understand and accept the feelings, instead of continuing to fear them, which is how many people attempt to cope with their feelings and emotions.