February 10, 2024

Can emotionally focused therapy help with betrayal?

A couple mad at each other.



  • Understanding betrayal 
  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
  • EFT and betrayal 
  • Can Focused Therapy help with betrayal?

It can be a devastating experience when you experience a betrayal in your relationship, and can leave deep emotional wounds for both individual and couples. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a type of counseling that is most commonly used with couples but can be used with individuals and families as well. EFT helps couples work through the difficult emotions following a betrayal to help couples rebuild a sense of trust and security in their relationships. In this article, we will explore how Emotionally Focused Therapy can help with betrayal and some examples of how EFT helping can help betrayals.

Couple Using a Laptop Computer

Understanding betrayal

Betrayal is ultimately a breach of trust and can show up in many forms. The most commonly discussed betrayal when it comes to relationships is affairs and infidelity. However, many other relationship betrayal can happen such as lies, deceptions, and dishonesty, or even abandonment and abuse. Betrayals often involve secrets and a sense of harm to an individual or a relationship, and they can often result in feelings of anger, shame, sadness, and loss of trust. In some cases, it can result in betrayal trauma where someone experiences psychological symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Learn more about PTSD triggers in relationships here). 

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson in the 1980s to help couples improve their relationship. While EFT can be used in individual and family therapy, it is considered the only evidenced based treatment for couples in distress according to the American Psychological Association (learn more about the effectiveness of EFT here). In EFT couples therapy, it is believed that emotional responsiveness between couples is a central component of helping couples feel close, connected, and secure in their relationships. Being able to be emotionally present for each other is what helps lead to a strong bond and attachment in relationships. Through the focus on emotions, EFT helps individuals and couples have a greater awareness of their emotions, talk about emotions in a clear way, and help each other regulate emotions when in distress. Through this process, couples develop a greater sense of emotional security with each other. (Learn more about how EFT works here.)

senior couple happy tablet computer love together

EFT and betrayal

Emotionally Focused Therapy can be helpful and effective for couples who have experienced a betrayal. The focus on emotions is particularly helpful for couples wanting to work through and heal from the emotionally damaging effects of a betrayal. After a betray, couples are often caught in an emotional cycles of anger, fear, defensiveness, and withdrawal. Working with an EFT couples therapist can help couples move through the difficult emotions and grief following a betrayal in order to find forgiveness and rebuild trust. 

In EFT, painful betrayals are often viewed as a relationship injury or an injury to the attachment bond of the couple. These emotional wounds need space to be cleaned out and healed so they don’t become infected. The process for cleaning and healing the wounds often involves helping couples identify and clearly communicate about their emotions, recognizing underlying relationship fears and needs, and developing more effective communication patterns around difficult emotions. Through the process, couples often rebuild trust and strengthen the foundation of their relationship. 

Can Emotionally Focused Therapy help with betrayal?

The short answer is yes! There are several studies that show the effectiveness of EFT for couples experiencing a betrayal well as studies where EFT has been effective for couples recovering from PTSD and trauma symptoms. In my own counseling practice, I have worked with many couples who come to therapy to heal from betrayal and betrayal trauma. While not all couples decide to stay together, it’s so fulfilling when couples tell me that EFT saved their marriage. 

While EFT can be effective at helping couples recover and heal from betrayal, it is important to note that not all therapies work for everyone. EFT requires commitment to the process, especially when painful emotions re being talked about in the sessions. I always recommend that couples start with 3-6 months of Emotionally Focused Therapy to see if it’s helpful. If you aren’t finding it helpful, there are other types of couples counseling that you can try. 

Experiencing a betrayal in your relationship  can bee a deeply painful experience, but EFT can help you rebuild and heal the relationship. By working through the painful feels and grief, couples can learn to communicate more clearly, be present for each others emotional experiences, and ultimately strengthen the relationship bond. 

Looking to start Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling provides online Emotionally Focused Couples Counseling, as well as weekend-long Marriage Intensives, throughout the states of Virginia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. Click the button below to schedule a complimentary consult. ​

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    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.


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