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Steps of Emotion Focused Therapy

Emotion Focused Therapy Steps

Building of an Alliance with the Therapy

This isn’t a discrete stage of emotion focused therapy, as it is a process that spans the whole of therapy. But you have to start with this as your first goal for therapy. The therapist has to create a safe holding environment in couples counseling for the partners in order to open up intense emotions. Research supports this is a better predictor of outcome than initial emotional distress, and that if you haven’t established this by session #3, therapy is very likely to fail.

There are several keys to doing this well:

  • Be genuine; you can’t fake this. Part of this is being transparent, making sure they understand what you are doing with them and why, tying the therapy activities to the goals for therapy, and being a consultant who educates and moves with them, rather than leads and expects them to follow. Transparency is actually one of the better predictors of success in EFT.
  • Trust is a key. 20% of failures in EFT can be predicted solely by asking the female partner during the assessment phase if she trusts the male partner. If she doesn’t, then therapy has a lower chance of working.
  • You stress strengths, willingness to face and overcome problems, and natural ability to heal. To do this well though you have to believe this of the couple and their potential. Johnson stresses the irrational things people do were rational and logical at some time and place; you have to be willing to see that and validate it for them, but support them in believing they can find a new way to adapt now.
  • Monitor the alliance–expect there will be breaks, but actively monitor the process. Avoid flooding them with emotions they can’t handle or “leaving them behind.”
  • Admit when you are wrong, when you made a mistake, or when you failed to understand something (it supports corrective emotional experiences and models for the couple how to do the same).

Interestingly, level of initial distress, lack of emotional expression, age and income, and religious differences do not seem to limit benefit from EFT. If anything, lower education and income clients seem to do better in EFT compared to high SES clients.