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What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

What happens to love?  When we are dating, when relationships are young, there is so much energy and excitement.  Then something happens.  I heard it once described that men have an allergic reaction to metal on their finger!  A change occurs in the relationship and instead of that fun exciting love, there is this dullness and disappointment that settles into the relationship.  This is the space where the ‘if only’ starts to come.  “If only he would make me more of a priority.”  “If only she would want to be less critical.”  These not so subtle disappointments reflect unmet longings in us that really hurt.

It is in this point, Dr. Sue Johnson has made some observations about love. In her research, she noted that lovers have this bond with one another that when it is strong it has this power to make everything okay.  We recognize this connection from romantic comedies, or our own experiences, when there is not a better space in all the world than in our lover’s arms.  The technical word is “emotionally regulating.”  It is that space that is not duplicated in anyone else. You feel safe, accepted and loved.

But sometimes this bond is distressed, interrupted and disconnected.  And in this space we are not okay.  I sit with couples who feel this pain and grow more and more mentally and emotionally uneasy.  Repeated arguments start to develop that include defensiveness; escalated emotions, like anger, and distance grow in the relationship.

Dr. Johnson calls her approach, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is the process of understanding the pain in the distress and how to recover and reconnect the bonds lovers have for one another.  The aim of EFT is to help couples return to a place where they can be close, caring for one another’s needs and feeling like everything is going to be okay.  It is one of the most well-researched and well-supported therapeutic interventions for couples.  At Alliance Counseling Group, we specialize in using Dr. Johnson’s principles of EFT to work with couples and help them find their way back together.