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How Emotionally Focused Therapy Can Help Couples Reconnect

Couple hugging with eyes closed

Have you ever wondered why it seems so hard to communicate with your partner? Have you tried getting them to do what you want, only to meet with stonewalling or refusal? Do you dread coming home at the end of the day because you’re afraid that your partner will blow up at you for the smallest thing? Do you ever wonder how much longer you can live feeling disrespected and lonely in your own marriage?

We all want a relationship that satisfies us. We want to feel connected, safe, and heard. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a scientifically proven method of couples therapy that changes the way couples interact by transforming unhealthy patterns and helping both partners develop a stronger emotional connection.

The Risk of Being Disconnected

Everyone talks about couples or relationships “that have grown apart.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Couples who “grow apart” no longer share the attachment (emotional) bond they developed in the early part of their relationship. Couples don’t feel any longer emotionally connected one to another or they feel as their emotional connection is temporary only to return to cycles of distance and disconnection. Attachment affects people on a deep emotional and physiological level; it even alters brain chemistry. As the bond erodes, so does the couples’ capacity to express vulnerability and be genuine with each other. A new pattern of interaction develops, one characterized by fear and mistrust.

The worst thing is the more you act out of these feelings, the more you hide your true emotions from your partner. An attack and withdrawal pattern overtakes the relationship, resulting in a greater disconnect, as each of you perceives the other as uncaring and uncommitted. The longer the negative pattern persists, the more damaged a relationship may become.

Forming Emotional Connections Through New Patterns

Sue Johnson, one of the founders of Emotionally Focused Therapy, describes it as a conversation between Carl Rogers, the father of experiential therapy; Salvador Minuchin, who pioneered a systemic approach to looking at relationships; and John Bowlby, who discussed the importance of attachment in child development. In other words, EFT allows couples to examine their feelings in a systemic way in order to help them shift away from negative patterns and create a more secure emotional bond.

EFT therapists use five steps to accomplish this goal:

  • Identify unhealthy patterns through examining how couples interact in therapy.
  • Deepen the emotions that fuel the negative pattern and figure out what couples are really feeling, and why they have put up walls.
  • Encourage couples to give each other a new message based on the authentic emotion.
  • Process the message so that each partner can hear what the other is really feeling.
  • Validate the couple for being able to express vulnerability.

These five steps are repeated over and over again until the negative pattern itself is framed as the problem rather than the couple. Once the couple understands that they have a common enemy—their negative pattern of communication—they are encouraged to speak about their deepest fears and reassure each other. These vulnerable exchanges help to reestablish bonding at a deep and genuine level.

Can EFT Work for You?

EFT has an impressive body of scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness at creating satisfying relationships with stronger bonds. While no specific approach works for everyone, it has a 70 to 75 percent recovery rate for couples in distressed relationships. What’s more, a full 90 percent of the couples who go through EFT experience significant improvements in their relationships.

One obvious advantage of EFT is that it’s a short term approach, lasting between eight and twenty sessions at most. Couples can experience meaningful results quickly, which gives them the positive motivation they need to keep working on the relationship.

Are you ready to feel less depressed, more trusting of your partner, and hopeful about the future again? You may be ready to give EFT a try.

Click here for more information on Couples Therapy.