What is EFT for Couples?

What is EFT?

“For all of us, the person we love most in the world, the one who can send us soaring joyfully into space, is also the person who can send us crashing back to earth. All it takes is a slight turning of the head or a flip, careless remark. There is no closeness without this sensitivity. If our connection with our mate is safe and strong, we can deal with these moments of sensitivity. Indeed, we can use them to bring our partner even closer. But when we don’t feel safe and connected, these moments are like a spark in a tinder forest. They set fire to the whole relationship.”

Dr. Sue Johnson, H old Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT) is the fastest growing evidence-based approach to treating relational distress in couples in the world. Developed by Sue Johnson, EFT is a respectful, warm, and scientifically proven method for getting underneath the everyday conflict, tension, or silent walls between you and your partner to the deeply personal issues that lie at the heart of it all.

EFT is based on Attachment Theory, the idea that we are all “wired” for connection, that as humans, we are social beings and are not meant to go through life alone. Attachment Theory says that we are at our best—physically, emotionally, cognitively—when we are in loving connection with another person. Study after study has shown that when we are “securely attached” to our partners, we can be more resilient, more confident, more centered—even physically healthier—in our lives. What does being securely attached mean? It means that when we think of our partners, we are confident in the answers to the questions:

“Are you there for me when I need you?”

“Can I turn to you and share my deepest feelings with you? Will you listen?”

“Do I matter to you?”

When couples are not confident in the answers to those questions, friction and/or distance grows between them. Over time if it’s not addressed, the friction will get more heated and the distance between the partners will become greater. This is confusing and painful, and we react to that confusion and pain in many ways–we get angry, we get critical, we shut down, we withdraw into ourselves, we turn elsewhere for comfort. At the same time, our partner is reacting in their own way to the pain of disconnection. These reactions tend to fuel each other, like this: one partner reacts with anger and the other partner reacts by withdrawing, which makes the first partner angrier, which makes the second partner withdraw further…. and couples soon get caught in a negative cycle or “dance” with each other.

In EFT Couples Therapy, the therapist helps the couple understand the role both partners play in creating the negative cycle or dance between them. There is no blame. There is no “finding the bad guy”. The therapist knows that both partners are caught in a no-win situation where each partner is reacting to the pain/hurt/loneliness in the relationship in the only way he/she knows how.

In EFT Couples Therapy the therapist will slow both partners down, help couples understand their moves in the dance—and what is underneath these moves. Then once the moves are understood, we can work together to change them.


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