What is Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples?

The foundation of Emotion-focused therapy is based on the work of Drs. Leslie Greenberg and Robert Elliot.   While their focus was looking at the emotions of the person, their therapeutic intervention was designed for individual or one-on-one therapy.

Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFTC) was born out of the 1980s work and research of Dr. Sue Johnson with Dr. Greenberg.   EFTC is an integration of the humanistic and experiential psychological perspectives.   The intent in the blending of these approaches is to restructure the emotional experience of those in the relationship.   Emotionally focused therapy combines techniques from Carl Roger’s person-centered therapy with a scientifically validated theory of adult bonding.  The goal is to help couples understand not only their own emotions, but also how back-and-forth patterns of emotional reactions operate in and affect relationships.

Whether applied within the context of couples or family therapy, this scientifically proven method focuses on improving the bond associated with Attachment theory.  Because none of our experiences are identical, it is through secure relationships that we can be guided towards connections and our happier and healthier selves.    So what distinguishes EFTC from Imago and Gottman therapy?

The Gottman Method , developed in the 1980s by Dr. John Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, helps couples communicate and bond by identifying their defense mechanisms.  This method uses a couples’ conflicts to improve communication and bonding through interventions aimed at creating understanding, awareness, and empathy to “master” the conflict.

 Imago, which derives from Latin meaning “image” was crafted out of the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt.   The theory of Imago Therapy is that our relationships are the unconscious connection to our childhood experiences.   The re-emergence of conflict indicates unresolved issues that impede the growth of the individual and the relationship.   The Imago Dialogue helps transform the relationship process from blame and reactivity to understanding and empathy.

Why Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples?

EFT goes directly at the emotion or distress because it is the problem, not the conflict.   Though content is important, it is not the primary focus.   Therapy does not negotiate your emotions or the details.   The theory is that it is the individual’s deeply rooted fears of abandonment that contribute to the distress in intimate partner relationships.   Emotions are the foundation of positive, secure, and lasting connection in any relationship, from intimate partners to family members.   EFTC focuses on the insecure attachment that is felt within the relationship.  We work with you to create a safe atmosphere within the relationship that allows for your vulnerability.   Much of this begins with understanding the interaction or dance between the partners.   It’s this pattern that keeps the relationship in a cycle that impedes compassion and understanding for one another’s emotional needs.

We found this method to be very effective. Couples report preferring this type of therapy because it gets them beyond the details of the argument, allowing them to connect on a more emotional level. This opens up the possibility for a deeper intimate relationship.

Congratulations to Craig James, LCSW, MAC for completing his externship training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT) through the Washington-Baltimore Center for EFT.   He and Julie Fender, LPC, CEAP are EFT trained therapists.  They are planning on conducting a weekend intensive couples therapy workshop in early 2017.   If you are interested, please contact either of them by email at jfender@insightactiontherapy.com or cjames@insightactiontherapy.com

 

 

 

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