What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Maybe you have heard of the newest buzz in couples therapy: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). The brainchild of Dr. Les Greenberg and Dr. Sue Johnson, EFT has been praised as one of the most well researched and effective models of couples therapy. Research studies have found that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements. This type of therapy is particularly helpful for couples who feel disconnected, out of touch, and lacking intimacy. This includes couples who have been through an affair, a loss, lack of sexual intimacy, struggle with infertility, postpartum depression, or are stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle of conflict.

This method of treating couple’s distress works by examining each couple’s pattern of conflict and interrupting and changing the pattern. This theory holds the assumption that a desire for connection is at the foundation of almost everything we do. We want to be close to our partners but this is easier said than done. We don’t know how to be close at times and our efforts to keep our partners close can sometimes do the opposite and push them away. EFT assumes that at the basis of conflict, partners are not secure and confident in the questions- “Are you there for me?” or “Am I safe?” We put up walls to protect ourselves when we don’t feel safe and become defensive, silent, or go on the attack. EFT helps couples slow down and look at the underlying fears and emotions that fuel conflict. It maps out each couple’s particular pattern of conflict such as pursue – withdraw, attack – defend, and helps partners understand themselves better and each other better. It helps them sidestep their usual pattern of conflict and reach out to one another and connect in new ways. The goal of EFT is for the couple to develop a secure bond with one another. When couples are safe and connected in this way they are more resilient and can better withstand the difficulties that life may bring. This method can strengthen marriages and revive the intimacy and spark that may have been lost due to life transitions or traumas.

So, whether you and your partner have lost touch, been through a horrible trauma, or simply can’t seem to get along anymore – there is hope! Research of EFT has shown that the level of distress upon entering therapy does not predict outcomes from treatment. Meaning, even if you are as miserable as can be, that does not mean that therapy will fail or that you are too far gone. Instead, what does predict success is the couple’s ability to trust the therapist and one another through this process.

If you and your partner are ready to take the courageous step of seeking therapy, Wild Tree Psychotherapy can help. We have therapists who have completed specialized training in the EFT model and are experienced in treating Depression, Anxiety, Survivors of Abuse, Infertility, Affairs, Postpartum Depression, and other concerns with Emotionally Focused Therapy.


Written by Katie Claus, MA