What Is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy?

When couples attend therapy, there is often a history of issues with communication, intimacy, and other factors related to problems with the expression of emotion. The expression of emotion between couples is communicated in both spoken and unspoken ways, and this can contribute to either a strong bond or a feeling of distance.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a short-term treatment approach used to address conflict in the communication and behavior between couples. The therapy is client-focused and promotes a collaborative relationship between the therapist and the couple through the 9 steps of the therapeutic process and 3 major change events that the couple is expected to benefit from in therapy1.


The goals of EFT are to promote and reorganize the couple’s emotional responses to one another, which are known as the music of attachment dance1. EFT is based on attachment theory, which is the emotional bond that the couple have with one another and is critical to a lasting, successful, and mutually satisfying relationship2. The aim of therapy is to create a significant and impacting change in the way the couple interacts with one another in order to begin a new chapter in their relationship characterized by a healthier style of relating.

EFT also emphasizes the development of a secure bond between the couple. This bond is like the glue of the relationship and will serve as the foundation for the couple maintaining the achievements they accomplish in therapy once therapy is terminated. It is normal for couples to experience conflict in their relationship (even after going through therapy), and this is a good thing, as it allows the couple to focus on collaborative problem solving and resolution of issues. However, a healthy bond not only strengthens the couple during setbacks in life or bumps on the road, but the healthy bond is what also allows the couple to derive lasting joy, satisfaction, and security from the relationship.

The EFT Therapist’s Role

The EFT therapist does not take on an expert role in evaluating the couple’s relationship. Instead, the EFT therapist provides respect, and seeks non judgmental understanding of the style in which the couple relates. This allows the couple to build trust with the therapist, and to work with him or her to change patterns in their relationship and meet their goals in couples therapy.

  1. ICEEFT. (2007). What is EFT? Retrieved from http://www.iceeft.com/index.php/about-us/what-is-eft
  2. Johnson, S. M., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L., & Schindler, D. (1999). Emotionally focused couples therapy: Status and challenges. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 6(1), 67-79.
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