EFT is usually a short term (8-20 sessions), structured approach to couples therapy formulated by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg. A substantial body of research outlining the effectiveness of EFT now exists. Research studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements.
The focus of Emotionally Focused Therapy is the quality of the emotional connection between two partners. The quality of connection is always parcoaching good in the beginning of any relationship. In the first stage, what I call “Stage 1 – You are the answer, ” we start out intensely connected to and responsive to our partners. Biology, love hormones, idealization, sameness focus, and suppression of conflict are the five qualities that make a new relationship feel like BLISS.
But the problem for couples will develop by Stage 2 – “You Are the Problem, ” because of several factors. The love hormones from Stage 1 produce a less potent magic. Our level of attentiveness tends to drop off. And, our desire to reveal our uniqueness (rather than just our sameness) produces differences between two partners… and conflict. The quality of the connection between partners can go from feeling safe to feeling pretty insecure.
Susan Johnson, one of the brilliant minds who developed Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples, says that “losing the connection with a loved one, jeopardizes our sense of security and we experience a primal feeling of panic. It sets off an alarm in the brain’s amygdala, our fear center. In a state of distress, we are programmed to either fight or flee. ” This relationship theory has been confirmed by the latest neuroscience research.
Understanding the problem in terms of the “science of love” is only the start to navigating the bumpy terrain of couples conflict. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy can provide couples with a map to get from problems to solutions. Emotionally Focused Therapy will give couples a nifty set of emotional tools to more skillfully manage their challenges.
In moments of disconnection, what two partners do next, in those moments of distess, will have a huge impact on the shape of our relationship. If two partners can learn to turn around and reconnect, the relationship can be stronger because both partners will begin to trust that the “we, ” the connection, can be a secure base each partner needs in order to be their best.
If couples do not learn how to turn to each other and reconnect, they will start to engage in, what I call “dumb fights” that follow a clear, and circular pattern. Susan Johnson called these arguments “demon dialogues. ” John Gottman, the acclaimed marriage research expert, call these fights “sliding door moments. “
Sliding door moments are the seemingly inconsequential everyday moments filled with the words we haphazardly throw back and forth at each other, that make or break the most important relationships in our lives, because these are the moments we say to our selves, “I trust” or “I don’t trust him/her. ” Once these sliding moments occur and you determine that your partner cannot be trusted, the relationship will start to unravel until these attachment injuries can be repaired.
The focus of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is understanding and navigating these moments differently. Conflict is danger but it is also an opportunity to understand your partner more deeply, and thus make the relationship safer.
Historically, other therapies have viewed these demon dialogues as power struggles. They’ve attempted to resolve couples’ fights by teaching them problem-solving skills. Susan Johnson says, ” this is a little like offering Kleenex as the cure for viral pneumonia. ” Teaching problem solving skills ignores the attachment issues that underlie the circular pattern of “dumb fights. ” Rather than conflict or control, the real issue, from an EFT perspective, is emotional distance. And what’s frustrating to people is not knowing how to bridge the emotional distance.
Susan Johnson says that when we fight with our partners, “we tend to follow the ball as it goes over the net, paying attention to the last barb lobbed at us-and not whether we even want to be in the game at all. “
Emotionally Focused Therapy helps you stop reacting, to step back and recognize the “game. ” With that expanded awareness, Emotionally focused Therapy teaches couples how to reveal and respond to these moments differently. Emotionally Focused Therapy helps a couple regulate their conflict by tapping into softer, more primary feelings rather than using anger to communicate. Anger pushes a partner further away, softer feelings pull a partner closer for understanding.