Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson. It is based on many studies in the fields of psychology and neurology that emphasize the importance of relationships with other people. They show that safe relationships based on cooperation, trust and mutual understanding are required for our emotional and physical wellbeing. The opposite is also the case, difficulties in relationships with loved ones, friends or colleagues negatively affect our health and wellbeing.
Initially, partners enter a relationship with the hope that they’ll mutually provide the support needed to cope with life’s hardships. Since the emotional bond between partners is crucial to us, any event that we perceive as threatening the emotional connection triggers our immediate response. This reaction comes from a desire to care
for the relationship.
Unfortunately, however, partners usually get stuck in a negative pattern cycle, because—not understanding the underlying cause of each other’s behaviors—they see these behaviors and react to them in their own way. As a result, they become stuck in an unproductive cycle of mutual, persistent negative reactions that gradually and inevitably disrupt their sense of safety. This state further distances partners emotionally and physically, which deprives them of hope and worsens their contentment. The couple is then unable to escape this situation without a therapist’s help.
In the EFT model, the therapist doesn’t seek to blame, but tries to understand each partner as best as possible, to help them get to know themselves and each other, and to capture the couple’s dynamics. The task is to identify the behavior patterns on both sides and to understand how certain words or actions of one affect the other. As a result, each person begins to better understand their own and their partner’s motives and learns what supports communication and what disrupts it.
Over time, there is more peace and partners can work to gradually learn new behaviors with the support of the therapist, enabling them to create a relationship that is more satisfying for both parties. As a result, they can experience a relationship that is supportive and allows them to safely experience emotional and physical closeness, which measurably affects satisfaction with life.