February 10, 2024

What is emotionally focused therapy by sue johnson?

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  • Overview of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) by Sue Johnson
  • Who can benefit from Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) 
  • ​What EFT sessions are like
  • How to find an Emotionally Focused Therapist
Young Couple

​Overview of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) by Sue Johnson

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a form of therapy that focuses on the emotional bond in significant relationships and is based on attachment theory. EFT was created by Canadian psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson in the 1980s, and while there are individual and family therapy options, it is most well known for its effectiveness at helping improve couple relationships. (Learn more about the effectiveness of EFT here.)

In Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, EFT marriage counselors help couples understand their attachment styles and how to create a secure emotional attachment bond in the couple relationship. As couples build a secure emotional attachment bond, they are better able to communicate, understand each other, and have a deeper sense of trust and emotional connection. 

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy typically is completed in 60-90 minute long sessions and takes 1-2 years to complete depending on the level of distress the couple is experiencing. The therapy is divided into 3 stages of symptom relief, developing new habits and patterns, using new skills as problems arise. EFT uses a variety of interventions such has helping people understand and make sense of their emotions, practice sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other, and practicing new communication skills that lead to better outcomes. (Learn more about how EFT works here). 

​Who can benefit from Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) 

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy is the most effective form of couple therapy currently and has been shown to help with a variety of relationship problems. In the clinical studies, EFT has a 70-75% success rate with a 90% improvement rate. Couples who complete EFT couples therapy not only maintain improvements post treatment, but also continue to experience positive growth in the relationship in the years following completion of EFT couples therapy. In addition to helping improve couple relationship, EFT couples therapy has been shown to help decrease depression, anxiety, and  trauma related symptoms for the individual engaging in EFT couples therapy. 

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​​What EFT sessions are like

Stage 1: 

In the first stage of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, the marriage counselor works to help couples identify and change any negative communication patterns they may be engaging in, such as blame, criticism, and defensiveness. The marriage counselor helps each partner understand the emotions that are driving the negative communication behaviors, and then engaged in guided conversation exercises to practice new ways of communicating. As couples practice communicating their difficult feels in a healthier way, it leads them to feeling more emotionally close and also build trust between them. 

Stage 2:

In the second stage, the EFT couples therapist helps the couple develop new, positive patterns communication. In this stage, the EFT therapist helps the couple to identify and share their relationship needs and desires more effectively. The therapist will help the couple practice this over and over again until the new pattern becomes ingrained as a habit. Through this process, couples create a more secure, emotionally satisfying relationship.

Stage 3: 

In the final stage, the therapist works with the couple to help them maintain the progress made. This may involve practicing the new skills learn through couples counseling to new situation and problems as they arise. 
When couples feel that they are able to maintain the progress they have made, then the therapy process will end. 

​How to find an Emotionally Focused Therapist

The best way to find an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist is to through the therapist directory of The International Centre of Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT). You can find the directory here.  The therapist directory will help you locate EFT therapists in your state and also help you know what level of training they have in EFT. 

Looking for EFT Couples Therapy or Supervision?

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. She also provided EFT supervision and training to clinicians looking to become certified in EFT 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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