February 10, 2024

Goals of emotionally focused therapy

Woman in therapy



  • Brief Overview of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
  • The 3 Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy
  • Techniques and Interventions in Emotionally Focused Therapy 
  • The Role of the Therapist in Achieving EFT Goals 
Young couple at therapy session

Brief Overview of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Therapy is type of couples therapy developed by Dr. Sue Johnson that views emotions as having a significant influence on relationships, and that helps couples create more fulfilling relationships. EFT is helps couples create more emotional security in their relationship by helping couples change negative interactional patterns and openly discuss emotions with each other. Because EFT is based on attachment theory, EFT couples therapists believe that emotional connection and security in relationship is a central part to building and maintaining healthy relationships. Understanding and talking about emotions is important in EFT because emotion provide people with information about their needs, desires, and vulnerabilities. When emotions go unexpressed or are misunderstood, it creates conflicts and emotional distance and disconnection in relationships. By helping couples communicate clearly about emotions, needs, and desires, couples are able to better understand each other, empathize with each other, and build a stringer relationship where they are on the same page with each other.

The 3 Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy

Goal 1: Identify and Process Emotions.

The first goal of EFT is to help individuals and couples recognize, understand, and express their emotions. Emotional awareness is a primary skill needed for healthy relationship functioning. As couples learn to better understand their own and each other emotions, they start to empathize with each other. Through this process, they learn to create safe spaces for open communication in their relationship. By learning to articulate their emotions, couples also learn to increase their emotional intimacy.

Goal 2: Restructure Negative Interaction Patterns. 

Many couples get stuck in negative communication patterns that seem to spiral out of control. These spirals are often characterized by blame, criticism, and defensiveness. The second goal of EFT involves identifying the pattern in their spirals, get out of the spiral, and gradually replace the spiral with healthier ways of communicating. Through EFT couples therapy, couples learn to break free from destructive communication spirals and build more positive and productive communication skills.

Goal 3: Foster Secure Attachment Bonds. 

​EFT helps couples develop a sense of emotional security and emotional safety in relationship. To to this, couples create a safe environment for each person to be vulnerable and share about emotions with each other. Partners learn to rely on each other for support and comfort, which helps them build more emotional connection and enhance their overall relationship satisfaction.

Happy elder couple embracing on sofa at home

Techniques and Interventions in Emotionally Focused Therapy

Listening and Validation.

EFT couples therapists help couples build active listening and validation skills. As couples learn to listen for understanding versus listening for responding, they finally start to genuinely listen and acknowledge each other’s feelings. A natural byproduct of true understanding is that they naturally start to empathize with one another, and this  paves the way for deeper emotional understanding and connection.

Your partner isn’t the problem. The problem is the problem.

EFT couples therapists often encourage couples to view relationship problems as part of a negative cycle that they are both caught in and that they can work together to overcome. By blaming the cycle that keeps them both stuck, versus blaming each other, couples cans tart to have more productive conversations and solve problems as a team.

Creating New Patterns of Interaction.

When couples can start to see the negative communication pattern that they are both stuck in, and start blaming that instead of each other, they can start working together as a team to create a new pattern. This teamwork, along with the better understanding of each others emotions, helps couples create new, positive interactions that promote intimacy and emotional closeness.

The Role of the Therapist in Achieving EFT Goals

Creating a Safe Therapeutic Environment.

EFT couples therapists work to provide a nonjudgemental and neutral space to address concerns. By creating a safe space for both partner to express their emotions openly and be heard, couples become more comfortable talking about emotional vulnerabilities and fears that may be hindering emotional connection.

Providing Emotional Regulation and Support.

EFT couples therapists teach clients how to manage intense emotions. Both partners learn to self-soothe as well as comfort each other, which helps couples know how to navigate emotional challenges outside of therapy sessions.

Collaborative Process and Homework Assignments.

EFT is a collaborative process and EFT couples therapists involve clients in the therapeutic process. Most of the “homework” involves exercises to practice new communication techniques. When couples practice the skills at home and work to develop new habits, it helps enhance the effectiveness of EFT.

Emotionally Focused Therapy helps heal and strengthen relationships by addressing the core emotional experiences impacting couples. The goals of identifying and processing emotions, restructuring negative interaction patterns, and fostering secure attachment bonds help couples build more fulfilling and emotionally connected relationships. Whether you’re facing relationship challenges or wanting to prevent them, Emotionally Focused Therapy can help you relate to yourself and those you care about in more effective ways. Remember, seeking professional help from a trained EFT couples therapist can provide the support needed to help you repair and/or improve your relationship.

Looking to start EFT Couples Therapy or EFT Supervision?

Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling provides online Emotionally Focused Couples Counseling, as well as weekend-long EFT Marriage Intensives, throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. Training and supervision is also available to therapists looking to become certified in emotionally focused couples therapy. 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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