Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)
In couples therapy, I operate from an approach called emotionally focused therapy, which is a practical and effective therapy approach that has been validated by over 20 years of research. It is generally a short-term (8-20 sessions) approach, specifically designed for couples therapy and also used with families. Studies indicate that approximately 85-90 percent of couples show significant improvement in their relationships after engaging in this therapy, including improved communication, reduced conflict, and better intimacy.
EFT has three phases:
1. Assessment and de-escalation – First we assess the issues that result in problematic patterns or “cycles”, along with the underlying emotions and needs that drive the cycle. With increased understanding of the cycle, you and your partner are able to make a critical shift, becoming united allies against the cycle as opposed to victims of it. This united front provides a safe base from which you can talk about feelings, needs, and solutions to problems. My role is to actively promote an environment of safety and trust so that each partner is able to participate without feeling threatened, criticized, or unheard.
This phase includes a relationship assessment inventory that you and your partner will complete, which will provide us with valuable information about the strengths in your relationship we can harness, as well as factors that might be contributing to the problem.
2. Acceptance and change – All couples have differences (e.g., in personality, opinions, past experiences, ways of handling conflict), which can lead to misinterpretations and miscommunications. Negative cycles between partners often involve a variation in which one partner tends to pursue and the other to withdraw. Underlying this cycle are tacit emotions and needs, and often certain “buttons” or sensitivities that each partner has (e.g., issues around trust, control, or intimacy, to name a few). In this second phase, we identify the factors that contribute to the cycle and how they impact your ability to communicate, connect, and manage conflict. Partners learn greater understanding and empathy towards each other, as well as how to interact in ways that promote better communication, closeness, trust, and relationship satisfaction.
3. Consolidation – In this briefest phase, with increased trust and empathy for each partner’s emotions and needs, there is a shift to new patterns of interaction that are reviewed and reinforced. Partners are able to report new ways that they handle conflict and emotions now as compared to the past.