Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT): What is it? Why does it matter?

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is a leading-edge couples therapy that can also be used for families and individuals. In the video attached below, Dr. Sue Johnson researcher and founder of emotionally focused therapy provides an in-depth look into what EFT is, the patterns and strategies that keep people stuck in negativity and disconnect, the process and stages, and several key interventions and techniques. For more information, please click the link to her Youtube video.

What does EFT look like?

EFT is a blend of the following three theories:

  1. Experiential:EFT believes change happens in the present process. The focus is on how people put together their emotional experiences. EFT helps people to identify their emotional experiences, dives more deeply into them, and puts them together in a new way so that they can be expressed to another.
  2. Systemic:EFT takes into account the entire relationship and explores the patterns, interactions, where people may get stuck, in order to help shift and make change.
  3. Attachment and bonding science:EFT is grounded in attachment science which focuses on creating more powerful bonding patterns. Attachment science provides a map that is used in EFT to help uncover what matters most in intimate relationships, how they work, what goes wrong, and what is needed to repair them.

(please see blog titled: Attached in love for more information on attachment science)


The goal of EFT is to help people create more secure emotional bonds with one another which aids in increasing their trust, vulnerability, and intimacy.

Stages of EFT:

Stage 1: De-escalating the couple’s negative cycle. Aim is to help people see the patterns they’re caught in and the strategies used that keep them stuck so that they can understand the problems they face in a non-blaming way.

Stage 2: Re-structures the couple’s bond and recreates conversations where people can openly share their fears and their needs in a way that creates connection rather than distance.

Stage 3: Consolidation involves helping people look at all the changes made, helps them rewrite a new love story about how they got stuck and helps them to share their dreams about their future together.

Key Inventions and Techniques used in EFT:

Tango: A 5 step move that is used to slow things down in a session

  1. Identify the emotion that is present
  2. Deepen and explore the emotion/emotional experience
  3. Set up and pass the emotional experience to partner
  4. Process the telling and hearing of this emotional experience
  5. Reflect the new understanding that has been discovered
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