Emotionally Focussed Therapy

What is Emotionally Focussed Therapy (EFT)?

Emotionally Focussed Therapy or EFT is a highly effective therapy programme developed by Professor Sue Johnson from the University of Ottawa in the 1980s. At its heart is the principle that the way to enhance -or save- a relationship is to re-establish a secure emotional attachment and preserve the couple’s bond.

Pre-EFT, couple therapy was based on the premise that healthy love relationships were simply rational bargains. Love was seen as a mutually beneficial alliance based on trading favours, “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.”

Rather than individuals in a relationship getting as many benefits as they can at the smallest cost possible cost Johnson said that relationships were emotional bonds. They were about the innate need for safe emotional connection. John Bowlby’s attachment theory demonstrates this connection between mothers and kids, and Sue Johnson showed the same thing is going on with adults.

EFT is recognised by the American Psychological Association as an empirically proven form of couple therapy.

Who benefits most from EFT?

Many couples seek help when they find little problems spiralling out of control in a way that has never happened before. A discussion about where to go to dinner results in an exchange of long-held grievances communicated in a way neither party would say is helpful. Couples also seek help when they come to a crossroads in their relationship and wonder whether to go on. 

Life changes such as the arrival of a new baby may have resulted in a reduction in intimacy. Arguments about step-parenting, money, the overuse of alcohol, and “in-laws” can result in people feeling lost and alone.

What is the process?

EFT focuses on creating and strengthening the emotional bond between partners. It identifies and transforms the key moments that foster an adult loving relationship: being open, attuned and responsive to each other. To achieve this, Briony conducts a thorough relationship assessment, establishes treatment goals with you and introduces you to ways you can rebuild your friendship and intimacy. She will help you manage your differences by identifying what your relationship triggers are and how you respond to those triggers that results in arguments going round and round, seemingly going nowhere.

The principles of EFT are provided in Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight: Your Guide to the Most Successful Approach to Building Loving Relationships. We tend to no longer live in supportive communities with our families of origin or childhood friends at hand. We work longer hours, often commute long distances or more recently work from home and are more dependent on screens and have less opportunities to develop close relationships. Rather we tend to live in communities of two.

British psychologist John Bowlby’s evolutionary theory of attachment suggests that children come into the world biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others because this will help them survive. Early research was based on the observation of the “failure to thrive” observed in some post-war orphans. It follows that the quality of connection to loved ones and early emotional deprivation or otherwise is the key to an individual’s habitual way of connecting with others. If your early attachment was secure it affects your comfort with closeness in your adult relationships. If your attachment experiences in childhood are anxious, disorganised or avoidant this shapes how you view your relationships.

Awareness of, and sharing your early attachment experiences can help you to understand your partner and lead to more attuned communication and connection. Keeping others close, having a loving contact is as important as physical nutrition and is a survival technique wired by evolution.

Individuals in a relationship are asking each other:

EFT helps partners tune into their important feelings and needs and then put those feelings and needs across to their partner in ways that invite positive responses.