Grounded in attachment theory, Sue Johnson formulated EFT as a systemic and structured approach to couple therapy. This approach recognizes the primacy of emotion in organizing both inner experience and key interactional patterns in primary attachment relationships. Emotion is seen as a powerful agent of change in the therapy, not just as a manifestation of relationship distress. By expanding clients’ emotional experience around core attachment needs and structuring change events to shift the cycle of negative interactions, EFT therapists work to help partners create a more secure bond in their relationship.
Over the last twenty years, a substantial body of research validating the effectiveness of EFT has been developed. Studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvement. EFT is an empirically supported treatment which is now being taught in university training programs and treatment centers.
EFT is effective with many different kinds of couples as well as families and individuals, and with a variety of cultural groups. The attachment frame of EFT provides a healing approach to partners in relationships as well as families and individuals suffering from depression, posttraumatic stress, and chronic illness.
Strengths of Emotionally Focused Therapy
- EFT is based on a clear understanding of marital distress and adult love. It is supported by Attachment Theory and empirical research.
- EFT is collaborative and respectful of clients. Alliance is key because it creates a safety that is healing in itself, is egalitarian, and non-pathologizing.
- Change strategies and interventions are specific and address recurring patterns of negative interaction as well as the underlying emotions that drive these patterns.
Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy
- To move from relational distress to a more secure bond between partners.
- To expand and re-organize key emotional responses—the music of the attachment dance.
- To facilitate a shift in partners’ interactional positions so that they can move toward increased accessibility, responsiveness, and safe engagement with each other.