How Does Emotion-Focused Therapy Work?

Emotion-focused therapy is a type of therapy that emphasizes the importance of emotion and emotional connection with other people to improve relationships and personal functioning.

Many people struggle personally and within relationships when they have little awareness of what they are feeling in response to the actions of others. Tendencies to misinterpret one’s own emotions can lead to tendencies to also misinterpret other people’s intentions, leading to miscommunications and frequent conflict.

Although EFT is commonly used with couples and in family groups, it can also help with individual issues. Learn more about EFT below, and how it works to help improve your life.

EFT Works for Your Needs

Emotional-Focused Therapy can be used in distressed relationships to identify the specific causes of that distress. Therapists help members of couples and families to really examine those single moments of interaction when relationships suddenly go awry, by slowing the process right down and exploring, sometimes in very fine detail, what each person thought and felt before reacting negatively.

Often, otherwise positive moments can begin to go wrong when one or both members of a couple think that their partner might not care or value them as much as they want and need. We all function best in life when we feel safe and secure within important relationships, and EFT helps to bring that safety to the forefront.

Key Steps in the Healing Process

Therapists who use EFT use many different techniques and tools to improve the quality of their patients’ relationships. Some of these include:

Step 1 – De-Escalating Conflicts

Nothing is more painful than feeling uncared for, so people are usually very quick to react with accusations and blame when they feel betrayed or forgotten. Not surprisingly, that can result in similar feelings and behaviour in the other person, which just escalates the intensity of the conflict.

One of the first and most important steps in the EFT process is to slow those escalations down and ‘put out the emotional fires’ that occur between the parties when people are simply reacting defensively.

Step 2 – Changing Problematic Patterns of Interaction

People tend to behave in habitual ways, especially if they feel attacked and accused. An important next step in the EFT process involves helping couples and families become able to ‘see’ how they are behaving in the relationship, without defensiveness, and to begin appreciating how those behaviours might be inviting very negative reactions from the other person/people.

Step 3 – Providing Corrective Emotional Experiences

Once the emotional ‘temperature’ within the family or couple has come down and members are able to begin truly hearing what things are like for the people they care most about, the EFT therapist will begin the rich process of helping people to begin expressing their true feelings and needs.

People who have felt unworthy and uncared for in their lives can have what we call corrective emotional experiences, experiences that truly heal old wounds when they feel heard and understood. An EFT therapist will always be on the lookout for opportunities to help couples and families find those healing moments within treatment sessions.

EFT Techniques

Therapists use a variety of proven techniques to help their patients connect more effectively with their emotions. These can include efforts to ‘cut through all the noise’ that occurs between partners and bring forward what are sometimes very small expressions of true feelings.

A key goal for an EFT therapist is to help each member of the couple or family to feel heard and understood and good therapists do that by reflecting back what they hear, to ensure the messages that clients intended were delivered accurately. Therapists also validate people’s feelings to give them the full credit they are due and help partners also do the same.