EFT: My Favorite Approach to Couples Therapy

I have not yet written about Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and I am not sure why!  I LOVE EFT!  Actually, I remember the day I fell in love with EFT.  I was one year out of graduate school and borrowed the DVD Externship from my post-graduate supervisor.  I was sitting on my couch working my way through the DVD when it hit me over and over: this theory was going to change the way I work with couples. Let me tell you about it. 

The whole theory is based upon Dr. Sue Johnson’s work of adult attachment, bonding and emotion.  The basic idea is that we have an emotional connection with our partner and when that emotional connection becomes threatened, our survival brain turns on and we do what we think will get that connection back.  Unfortunately, sometimes the thing we do to get connection back actually creates more disconnection.  From this comes the negative interactive cycle, or dance of disconnection. 

Here’s an example: Partner A comes home from work to see dishes have not been done all day (because this dance can start with anything).  Partner A feels unheard and uncared for so Partner A shows anger and yells.  Partner B sees the anger and feels unloved and unworthy so Partner B shuts down and withdraws.  The more Partner B withdraws, the more Partner A gets angry; the more Partner A gets angry, the more Partner B withdraws; and round and round it goes.  This really comes down to fear of abandonment and fear of rejection.  I am not good enough and I am afraid you might leave me if you see this part of me.

Therapists who are trained in EFT have the skills to be able help couples identify this dance of disconnection, to help couples stop it and create a new dance of connection.  This is truly beautiful when it happens!  My heart feels so warm and full when I get to witness this vulnerability and acceptance between partners.  This is what intimate relationships are all about!

If you would like to know more about EFT, here are a few resources.  The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (www.iceeft.com) has several resources including research, videos and books.  While you are there, check out the Hold Me Tight Workshops and consider attending a workshop (I have one coming up this fall).  Of course, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to speak with you about EFT! 

Jessica Schroeder is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in historic downtown Leavenworth, Kansas.  Jessica specializes in Couples Therapy and Trauma with adults and children and has additional training with supervision in Emotionally Focused Therapy.