Emotionally Focused Therapy
“We had been married seven years when our loving partnership became toxic, unable to sustain co-parenting, two full time careers, or mutual support and regard. Blame, shame, and anger were sinking us during the years we most needed the support of our partnership to keep us afloat. We began to live separately and told our children we were going to “un-marry.” It seemed impossible we could escape the pain, even in separation.”
Emotionally focused therapy was developed by Sue Johnson. EFT is grounded in attachment theory, the idea that all human beings need a safe haven from stress and discomfort, and a secure base from which to explore the world. Early established attachment patterns between infant and caregiver carry on throughout the lifespan and manifest in adult relationships. Attachment theory provides EFT therapists with a “road map” to the drama of distress, emotions, and needs between partners.
When we perceive distance in our close relationships, we interpret this as danger; it is a threat to our sense of security. When this happens, our attachment system is triggered and we go into self-preservation mode, often doing what we did to cope in childhood. EFT helps to understand and reshape these patterns, reducing conflict while creating a more secure emotional bond.
Research studies have found that 70-75% of couples undergoing EFT successfully move from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvements.
“With the framework Dr. Medaris had worked us through, I looked back on the previous four years of hurt in a whole new light… The anger I had at my partner, the feelings of abandonment, distance, and lashing out shifted; I saw his choices not as ones designed to hurt, but designed to protect the hurt he was feeling, that I was creating. I saw the role I had played in our dynamic, but did not sink into shame because Dr. Medaris had helped me understand why I had acted and felt the way I had.”
The EFT Road Map
Phase One: Understanding your relationship history and discovering the negative patterns of interaction you tend to get stuck in. Noticing both the surface and underlying feelings that underlie that pattern. Begin to notice how you and your partner co-create the cycle that you get into when you argue or shut down. Recognize that the cycle is your common enemy, not each other.
Phase Two: With more safety established, begin to explore your experiences more deeply and begin to share these more vulnerable feelings with your partner. As you each begin to take these risks, it allows the other person to deeply see and understand your experience. Learn to stay engaged while listening to your partner’s experiences. Explore what helps each of you get and stay connected to each other. Create a deep, secure, lasting bond.
Phase Three: Revisit any problems that were put on hold while working on therapy (e.g. finances, parenting, housework) from this new place of emotional connection. They will seem far more approachable and resolvable from this place! If you are connected on a deep level, you can address almost any problem together. If you are disconnected, most problems will seem insurmountable. Create ways to celebrate and maintain your bond moving forward.