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Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotion Focused Therapy

Holly Blue has years of experience as a therapist using Emotion Focused Therapy and continues to use it because has been very instrumental in helping resolve issues.

Basic Ideas of EFT

  • Emotion and attachment have received little recognition in previous treatment models compared to rational cognitions and logical behaviors. EFT therapists validate the partners’ emotions and attachment needs, respond genuinely to the partners individually, and try to stir the two partners’ own ability to heal themselves and their relationship (the relationship is the client). This fits well with Gottman’s research that it is not negative emotional engagement that predicts divorce, but rather a lack of emotional engagement.
  • The first of the many steps of emotion focused therapy is the process of uncovering emotions. This is not the same as catharsis, but is an effort to reveal and integrate marginalized and denied emotions by identifying and engaging them in the moment.
  • The emotion focused therapy session is seen as a healing place where a corrective emotional experience between partners happens, and it is that process that is the method of therapeutic change. The therapist is egalitarian, and empowers the partners.
  • The therapist avoids over-pathologization by remembering that current negative emotional responses were adaptive at some place and time; what seems irrational now actually was a logical response somewhere and somewhen. However, previously adaptive behaviors are now mismatched to the situation, or are rigidly practiced, and so are now maladaptive.
  • Systems theory combines two individuals and creates a whole relationship that is more than the sum of the part(ner)s. For Partner 1, inner emotional experiences influence external experiences, which in turn prime the person for the same inner emotional experiences, re-influencing external experiences…. This cycle for Partner 1 feeds itself and the same cycle for Partner 2, whose cycle feeds itself and that of Partner 1…. The whole thing takes on a life of its own and becomes “a self-maintaining positive feedback loop”. This means positive encounters can have a compounding effect, while experiences in which one partner failed to respond to the other’s needs (attachment injuries) can warp perceptions of future experiences.

Resources

For more information, see:

    • Vatcher C. A. & Bogo, M. (2001). The feminist/emotionally focused therapy practice model: an integrated approach for couple therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 27(1), 69-83.
    • Millikin, J. W., & Johnson, S. M. (2000). Telling tales: Disquisitions in emotionally focused therapy. Journal of Family Psychology, 11(1), 75-79.
    • Johnson S. M. & Greenberg L. S. (1985). Differential effects of experiential and problem-solving interventions in resolving marital conflict. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 53(2), 175-184.
    • Millikin, J. W. (2000). Resolving Attachment Injuries in Couples Using Emotionally Focused Therapy: A Process Study
    • Johnson, S., Maddeux C., Blouin J. (1998). Emotionally focused family therapy for bulimia: Changing attachment patterns. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 35, 238-247.
    • Johnson, S., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L., & Schindler, D. (1999). Emotionally focused couples therapy: Status & challenges. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 6, 67-79.
    • Johnson, S. & Talitman, E. (1997). Predictors of success in emotionally focused marital therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 23(2), 135-152.
    • Cloutier, P. F., Manion, A., G., & Gordon-Walker, J. (2002). Emotionally focused intervention for couples with chronically ill children: A two-year follow-up. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 28(4), 391-398.