What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy and How Can It Help Your Relationship?

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Relationships often need support to remain strong. That’s where Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) comes in.

When you are in a close relationship, you want to maintain your emotional connection while successfully managing conflict.

What is required to do these things? A deep attachment to your partner or loved one.

Of course, life happens to relationships. People get busy. We get stressed and short with each other. We drift away, resentment builds, and closeness can be replaced with distance and compromised communication.

Can you recover your closeness?

The answer is yes! Couples are often well supported in this effort by this evidenced-based approach.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

The attachments and bonds that support intimate relationships shape the premise of Emotionally Focused Therapy. This type of therapy specifically centers on love and the bonding process among adults. Developed by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in the 1980s, Emotionally Focused Therapy is relatively short-term method of couples therapy. Generally covering between 8-20 therapist-led sessions, the method is grounded in well-supported relationship research. Overall, love is viewed as an attachment bond between partners. One that can be hampered or stifled by unaddressed, negative communication practices.

Emotionally Focused Therapy closely examines emotional patterns that arise from a key fear in close relationships — the fear of abandonment. Yet the goal is not to spend a great deal of time delving deeply into the pain or trauma of the past. Instead, EFT is an active, present mode of therapy. It investigates your current relationships and the behavior patterns you exhibit within them.

Basically, Emotionally Focused Therapy can help you and those you care about build secure and lasting bonds. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to mend weakened intimate connections.

How Does EFT Work?

Emotionally Focused Therapy tackles the here and now. Your skilled EFT therapist essentially helps facilitate the discovery of negative or unhelpful patterns and individual behaviors in your current relationship.

Primarily, this is done via talk therapy. As you and your loved one discuss conditions and circumstances that have affected your relationship, you’ll share your feelings as well. In addition, you’ll share the ways you can resolve issues between you.

In EFT sessions, your therapist observes relationship dynamics and helps you see what may be eroding your connection. After identifying areas of concern, you try to determine, within your relationship, how the issues came to be. Then, the usual next step is to devise a more productive strategy for reconnecting and managing conflict well.

You can expect compassion from your therapist. They will listen and question without judgment. You will be given the chance to recognize and fully understand your own emotions. Learning to welcome, allow, and regulate your emotions is key.

Soon, your ability to better assess, respond to, and manage emotions is improved, as well.

EFT is generally thought to have been successful when the couple in therapy has increased awareness of their emotional experience. They may also have an improved ability to regulate their feelings and transform unhelpful emotions.

What Can EFT Do For You?

Emotionally Focused Therapy helps you and your partner reclaim your connection. By engaging in the process, allowing yourselves to be vulnerable, and committing to lasting change in your relationship, you will be enhancing the effectiveness of EFT. As you and the therapist work together, a new way of functioning and relating starts to emerge. You may notice that you no longer allow poor habits and unproductive behaviors to keep you distant and detached from your partner.

Most of all, everyday interactions will benefit. For couples, intimacy, both emotional and physical, improves. The relationship rebounds instead of falling apart. Essentially, EFT provides a lifelong tool for getting close, and staying that way.


 Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin by using Emotionally Focused Therapy. If you and your partner are seeking to discover negative patterns in your relationship and reclaim your close connection, Jill’s training in EFT may be the right approach for you. To schedule a session, call Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.