Emotionally Focused Therapy

What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Therapy, sometimes just known as EFT* , is a highly effective way of helping couples build a stronger connection. You may hear or see it referred to as EFCT. (That’s Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.) Same thing.

Though not extensively done in St. Louis yet, this approach to counseling thrives in many other cities in the U.S. and countries around the world. Several of my clients who come from the East or West Coast, for example, have asked me specifically about EFT. They looked me up on the ICEEFT website and noticed I was listed as advanced in this approach. So, now I guess you want to know what ICEEFT stands for, too. That’s the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy with a web address of www.iceeft.com.

Sure, EFT has fancy acronyms, but does it work? You’ll be glad to know that it has been studied rigorously for over 25 years, and the outcome studies have been impressive. 70-75% of couples in this type of couples counseling move from distress to recovery and 90% show significant improvement. This is true even in couples where one or both of the partners have experienced anxiety, depression, PTSD or chronic illness. If you are into research, you might want to check out this post from my EFT colleagues in Colorado: http://www.coloradoeft.com/eft-in-depth/research/.

What makes it so effective? EFT gives the therapist a map for working with couples, nine steps and three stages to be exact. It all started in the early 80’s with Drs. Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg in Canada. The major difference of EFT is that it gives couples the experience of building a stronger bond. These two developed their approach in a day where therapists thought all we needed to do was encourage couples to make bargains, change their behaviors or develop better communication skills. When those ways of working with couples were studied, they had about a 40% success rate. Skills were generally forgotten shortly after the couple ended counseling. In contrast, follow up studies with EFT couples were found to be doing even better than when they left therapy!

I like this approach because is it so respectful of my couples. Instead of the blaming their partner, EFT clients soon see how they have been taken over by repetitive patterns of interaction that cause their distress. Dr. Sue Johnson calls this their “negative dance”. Once they see how they are stepping on each other’s toes, they are able to learn a new dance of connection.

In more recent years, EFT has expanded to include an approach for working with individuals and families (EFFT). For more information, you may want to check out www.iceeft.com.

*If you Google in EFT on the internet, you will run across something called Emotional Freedom Technique — this is a tapping method that has nothing to do with Emotionally Focused Therapy.