Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a treatment for couples that is steeped in attachment theory and an understanding of the importance of secure attachments in our primary relationships. We need to know that our partners are there for us when we reach for them. That when we cry out or panic, that they are reliable, dependable and responsive. All partners want to be this for one another. But sometimes, the way one partner reaches can be upsetting to the other.
In our earlier infant-caregiver relationships, we learned different strategies for reaching and responding to get our needs met. Depending on our caregivers’ responses, we felt secure, anxious, or avoidant. Either we learned that our caregivers were reliable, sometimes dependable, or completely unavailable. As a result, these strategies remain the same ones that we use to reach for our partners now.
When couples come to therapy, they are usually stuck in a repetitive dance that they can’t seem to get out of on their own. Couples are trying to reach one another using the strategies they have developed since childhood, but it often results in creating friction in the relationship. One partner may fall into pursuing their spouse while the other withdraws. And in the midst of their distress, they create the meaning of their partner’s actions. They cannot understand why their partner doesn’t care for them or think they are good enough. So around and around they go repeating the same old arguments.
EFT was developed to help couples get off the Merry-Go-Round of their relationship dance. We do this by helping each partner understand their steps in the dance and recognizing how they cue their partner’s own steps. Unfortunately, their cues are often misread and result in them stepping on one another’s toes instead of dancing in unison and harmony. As we slow down the dance and recognize each one’s cues and underlying attachment needs, we help each partner turn to the other and engage in new and more meaningful ways. This allows us to restructure the relationship to one of recognition, understanding and felt security.