Check out these EFT Couples Videos
"A relationship is a dance - and the rhythms and habitual steps of the dance have their own momentum - can take over. In EFT we look at the dance you are caught in and how it leaves you both hurting and frustrated. We help you step out of your negative dance and create a new dance that is safer, closer and more satisfying. We talk about emotions a lot because they are the music of the dance - we help you understand the signals you send that might make it hard for your partner to come close and help you send new emotional signals that pull your partner towards you and help you dance together - in harmony."
Scientific American recognizes Dr. Sue Johnson - Deciphering the Language of Love
History of EFT
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a structured approach to couples therapy that is based on the science of adult love and bonding (attachment). Developed in the 1980’s by Drs. Susan Johnson and Les Greenberg, EFT is a highly researched, effective and evidence-based theory that helps couples understand and respond to each other’s needs. EFT concepts have been validated by over 20 years of empirical research as well as research on the process of change and predictors of relationship success.
Studies show that 70-75% of couples working with an EFT therapist move from relationship distress to recovery during the course of therapy. Approximately 90% show significant improvements. The results of EFT therapy tend to be robust and long lasting, something that other modalities of couples therapy cannot claim.
How EFT Works
When we can’t find a safe, loving way to stay connected to our partner we go into a state of emotional pain and alarm. We automatically respond by protesting or withdrawal (fight or flight) when we feel this fear or panic. Our partner will then often respond with his or her own protest or withdrawal. This cycle is a “neural duet” between partners—they impact each other both physiologically and emotionally creating a feedback loop of negative interactions.
EFT is a systematic map of steps and stages that understands these cycles as the underpinnings of relationship distress. Couples are helped to create nurturance, love and connection in their relationships. Change strategies and interventions are specified within the EFT steps and stages. Couples learn to identify their cycle, the emotions underling the reactions and their parts in the dance as they come up in the session and at home. Couples learn to regulate their emotions and send clear, coherent emotional signals of their needs to their partner. They also learn how to respond in a healthy way to the signals that are sent to them.
Couples begin to actively create a new, positive cycle where they can express their needs and fears and create accessibility and responsiveness. When we can send clear attachment cues we actually pull out partner closer and create the safety, trust and support that we have been yearning for. EFT is a collaborative, experiential model that encourages couples to be involved in the deconstructing of the negative cycle and the creation of a new, secure relationship.
An EFT Roadmap for Couples
Stage 1 – Understand Your Strengths and the Patterns that Keep You Stuck
Step 1: Set goals for counseling; understand some of the ways your relationship history affects your relationship now.
Step 2: Discover and describe the negative patterns of interaction you get stuck in. You and your therapist will track your interactions with your partner and identify where and how your communication breaks down.
Step 3: Emotions are stirred up in your relationship, especially when you get stuck in these negative cycles of interaction. Emotions also drive the cycle. You may first be aware of anger, frustration, anxiety, numbness or even withdrawal. Notice inside what other feelings are beneath these initial feelings, such as hurt, sadness or fear. Begin to share these “underneath” feelings with your partner. It is OK if it feels “bumpy” – it helps diffuse the cycle sometimes, but not always.
Step 4: Describe your cycle and recognize what the triggers are. Understand how the things that you do to protect yourself and your relationship affect and may even threaten your partner. Notice how you co-create the cycle: “we’re doing that thing again...the more I go after you, the more you withdraw because you’re feeling hurt...” Slow down your conversations so that you can tap into the feelings that are beneath the surface. Catch your own thoughts (e.g., “She doesn’t care” or “I don’t matter”) before acting on them. You might notice that you can hold back your knee jerk reactions to avoid the cycle. You might not know yet how to pull each other close and you might be afraid the “old way” will come back. However, when you discover that this negative cycle is the source of unhappiness in your relationship, you realize that your partner is not the enemy. You can then work together to gain control over this negative cycle and that already feels infinitely better.
Stage 2 – Create a New, Intimate Relationship Bond; Change Your Communication Patterns
Step 5: Both of you are now able to talk about your feelings that get triggered by the negative cycle; including things you might not have been able to say before. With less friction and more compassion between you, there is safety to explore your experience more deeply. We all have doubts about ourselves at times and may also have fears about depending on others. You may struggle with personal fears or insecurities in this relationship. You may have had life experiences that make it difficult to trust others to be there for you. With the help of your therapist, you can take turns and begin to share these “raw spots” with your partner. As you take these risks, your partner begins to truly see and understand where you are coming from, which creates empathy.
Step 6: This step involves staying engaged and listening to your partner’s disclosures. Your partner may share feelings that take you by surprise. You may feel disoriented or even hurt that you have not heard your partner share so personally like this before. It is OK to experience a mixture of emotions. Start by trying to understand at an emotional level what your partner is saying, without needing to change his/her experience or take responsibility for it yourself. Stay open to the possibility of experiencing and understanding your partner in a new way. Allow yourself to be moved by your partner’s new disclosures.
Step 7: Explore what helps you feel deeply connected, what is most important for you in this relationship. In this stage of therapy your therapist helps you find ways to ask for your needs in the relationship in a way that is both caring and direct. You can lean into and reach for your partner and he or she is able to reach back in a loving way. You have found a new way to relate when one of you feels stressed, hurt, or insecure. The bond between you shifts, becoming closer and more intimate. You can check out your perceptions and talk about feelings. You can listen with an open heart, be curious about one another and offer reassurance when needed. Both of you have a felt sense of “being there” for each other.
Stage 3 – Use New Communication Patterns to Solve Problems and Maintain Intimacy
Step 8: Revisit old problems or decisions that have been put on hold (e.g., parenting, finances, sex, family issues, health concerns, etc.) while staying emotionally connected. They don’t seem as loaded now that you feel heard, valued, close and secure. Focus on staying accessible, responsive, and engaged while talking about practical issues. Together, you can face any of life’s challenges more easily.
Step 9: Congratulations! You have reshaped your relationship. Or perhaps this is the first time in your relationship that you have felt a profound bond with one another. You have worked hard to get here, so it’s important to celebrate it and put safeguards in place to protect it. Create rituals together that privilege your relationship. Find ways of keeping this new way of relating strong.
Dr. Sue Johnson's Books
Check out the video at How To Make Love Last In The Age Of Instant Gratification: Dr. Sue Johnson