What is EFT?


EFT stands for Emotionally Focused Therapy or Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Dr. Susan Johnson is the leading developer. Even Dr. John Gottman (as some could say is a competitor as an author of the Gottman Method) endorses EFT and thinks all therapists should study it.

From the beginning I had known that the pure forefulness of my argument would not penetrate deep enough to affect change. It almost never does…Only when one feels an insight in one’s bones can one own it. Only then can one act on it and change…It is extraordinarily hard, even terrifying to own the insight that you and only you can construct your own life design…It is only when therpy enlists deep emotions that it becomes a powerful force for change.

Irvin Yalom, Loves Executioner (1989)

Emotionally Focused Therapy challenges the Gottman Method for the most research method of couple’s therapy at risk of oversimplifying. The good news is we combine the best of both as it makes sense for each couple. EFT prescribes a series of stages and steps leading to relationship recovery. The therapy centers around creating a healthy emotional connection. John and Julie Gottman share a similar view that friendship and connection provide a foundation for building relationships.

Some men hear the term EFT and think it will be too expressive. Men are often raised to think this way. However, most men find that it is not only comfortable but highly effective. Some men prefer to work with a male Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy counselor. The alliance with the counselor is crucial with EFT.

EFT does not seem to have many issues with relapse after treatment, as many therapies do. It is all too common for couples or individuals to enter therapy, improve, and quickly return to their old ways. Not so much with EFT. Building a healthy connection helps with things like premarital planning, sex and romance, talking about difficult topics like finances and money.

Another strength of EFT is that it can often be fully implemented in 8 to 20 sessions. EFT is scientifically based counseling, and there is support for its use with many populations.

Couples’ communication patterns are a cornerstone of ETF. An EFT therapist can work with you to teach and help you practice effective patterns. Susan Johnson describes Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy as a dance you perform with your partner. The ideal dance is like a tango, where you move together and are in sync. Also read about men and Emotional Focused Therapy, as many men hear this term and have an adverse and unrealistic reaction.

Dr. Susan Johnson describes the EFT journey as follows:

* From alienation, to emotional engagement;

* From vigilant defense and self-protection, to openness and risk taking;

* From a passive helplessness in the face of the inexorable dance of the relationship, to a sense of being able to actively create that dance;

* From desperate blaming of the other, to a sense of how each partner makes it difficult for the other to be responsive and caring;

* From a focus on the other’s flaws, to the discovery of one’s own fears and longings;

* But most of all, from isolation to connectedness (this is not an easy journey for most couples, even with the guidance of a seasoned therapist).

Susan M. Johnson, The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, Creating Connection (2020)

See the site’s main FAQ page for answers to questions about this method.