In a very recent post, I wrote: Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) is a therapeutic approach that guides us to better identify and process the emotions we experience on a daily or hourly basis. When can name our emotions, it helps us resist avoiding them. This self-awareness is a giant first step toward learning what emotions can teach us.
Like all modalities, Emotionally-Focused Therapy is nuanced and unique. Therefore, as a follow-up, it makes sense to explore deeper aspects of this treatment option. More specifically, it can be enlightening and inspiring to learn a little more about EFT’s principles, techniques, and goals.
3 Key Principles of Emotionally-Focused Therapy
It’s always tricky to list the “key principles” of any treatment. So much depends on the unique details of each client. However, in the case of EFT, we can point to three critical aims:
When a couple first meets with an EFT therapist, the initial goal is to increase their emotional awareness. Question: What feelings are impacting your relationship and how?
Question: As your awareness of emotions grows, what can you do with it? An essential skill is learning how to productively deal with your feelings — especially when they are negatively affecting your life.
So, you have identified your emotions and done the work to regulate them. Now what? EFT guides you into a place where you can transform your feelings from maladaptive emotions into adaptive emotions. Question: What transformation can make a difference in your marriage?
Basic EFT Techniques and Goals
Emotionally-Focused Therapy takes place over the course of three stages that are broken into a total of nine smaller steps.
Stage 1: Cycle De-escalation
Let’s say a couple is always in conflict about sex. The de-escalation of this situation could be the initial goal in stage one. This process begins with the therapist getting a sense of how the couple communicates.
- Identify what it is about their sex life that causes concern
- Name the patterns that result in an escalation of conflict
- Begin looking for the underlying, attachment-related emotions that are not being discussed
- Reframing the conflict in terms of attachment needs and unaddressed emotions
Stage 2: Reimagining Interaction Patterns
Here is why the deeper emotions get unearthed. What are the root causes of the surface conflict? How can these causes be discussed with compassion and empathy in the name of forming a stronger bond?
- Giving voice to the needs that have been identified
- Accepting one another’s needs as sincere, valid, and worthy of their attention
- Learning how to have these conversations in a healthy and non-confrontational manner
Stage 3: Consolidation and Integration
As they move into the final stage and final steps, the couple is guided toward independent problem-solving. An awareness of attachment theory and an ability to discuss without conflict are consolidated and integrated.
- With help from the therapist, the couple practices using their new skills to address old and new issues
- Integrating these new skills into life outside the therapy room — from now on
When a couple can effectively engage in their new patterns, EFT therapy comes to an end. The goals that have been met include:
- Healthy communication
- Awareness of attachment-related insecurities
- Developing a more secure attachment
Getting Started with EFT
Now that you know some of the nuts and bolts of this popular and effective therapy, you may be wondering how to make it work for you. A consultation is an ideal way to find out if EFT could be the best choice for you and your relationship. I would love the opportunity to discuss all of this more in detail with you very soon.