Emotionally Focused Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) helps people makes sense of their emotions and transform them into something more productive. By learning to regulate emotions, people are able to come to a deeper understanding of their experience, allowing for greater acceptance and more effective expression of how they are feeling. EFT achieves this by concentrating on helping further the development of emotional intelligence, while also prompting an increased understanding around the importance of secure relationships. With this attention to emotion, EFT offers an effective, evidence-based alternative to more technical treatment approaches.
Emotions help us gauge what’s important to us in any given situation. They also help us understand what we may need or want out of that situation. This understanding provides us with cues about how to behave in order to get our needs met. Emotion Focused Therapy helps people raise their self-awareness, which is the cornerstone of developing emotional intelligence. Increased awareness sets the stage for reflection, helping individuals and couples gain a deeper understanding of what they are feeling.
Within the safety of the therapeutic relationship, clients have the opportunity to more deeply explore their emotions and reveal for themselves the value of increased emotional awareness. This happens through learning to confront and effectively express difficult emotions, while developing skills for better managing them. Rather than simply reacting, clients learn to become more flexible in their response to emotionally charged experience. Responding, rather than reacting, transforms not only the emotional experience of the client, but makes more productive use of emotions creating more fruitful outcomes.
One the basic principles support the EFT model is the notion that, in order to change, a person needs to connect with where they are emotionally before they can move forward. Very often, when confronted with difficult or intense emotion, people will dismiss or push the experience away. Through increased awareness, these experiences can be reclaimed. This provides clients with opportunity to discover things they did not know and experience parts of themselves of which they were not consciously aware or had previously denied.
EFT helps people identify trustworthy memories they can rely upon as effective and adaptive guides for behavior and response. It also supports them in identifying which emotions are left over from past experience are maladaptive and no longer working for them. With these various emotions identified, individuals and couples can learn to relate to their memories, thoughts, feelings and the associated physical sensations that may have been ignored or avoided in a more healthy fashion. By getting in touch with more adaptive emotions, people are able to transform maladaptive emotions, such as fear, sadness or shame into something more productive, such as empowering anger, healthy grief and compassion for themselves and others.
EFT relies on very clear definitions of what constitutes both marital distress and adult love. These ideas are informed by research on the nature of marital distress and adult attachment, or the way adults relate with one another. Another strength of EFT is that it is a collaborative enterprise, which acknowledges the therapist’s skill set, while remaining respectful of the client and his, her or their needs, meeting the client where they are. Part of this collaboration includes strategies for change and interventions that address shifts that need to happen for either the individual or couple. The change process that this collaborative effort prompts is clearly mapped out. As with marital distress and adult love, the change process outlined in EFT, as well as predictors of success, are also supported by research. EFT has been used in many different situations and with a variety of client populations, to equal effect.
The primary goals of EFT include enhancing emotional intelligence through a fostering of self-awareness, allowing for an expansion and reorganization of emotional responses. In terms of couples, it intends to shift the fixed patterns of behavior that may be keeping a relationship stuck, creating different, and more productive, cycles of interaction. Emotional awareness, shifts in emotional response and changes in patterns of interaction promote a greater sense of security within the relationship, and for the partners as individuals.