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  • Writer's pictureJanice Gill

EFT Couples Therapy: Exploring the Stages of the Work





Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a highly effective and evidence-based approach to couples therapy that focuses on understanding and reshaping the emotional responses within a relationship. Developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, EFT operates on the premise that emotions are key to relationship satisfaction and that addressing underlying emotional needs can lead to positive change. The therapeutic process unfolds through three distinct stages, each contributing to the overall transformation of the relationship.


1. De-escalation: Unraveling the Patterns

The first stage of EFT is centred around de-escalating conflict and dismantling negative interaction patterns within the relationship. Couples often enter therapy stuck in cycles of blame, criticism, and withdrawal, contributing to a sense of emotional disconnection. In this stage, the therapist works with the couple to identify these negative cycles and understand the emotions that fuel them.


Therapists employing EFT help partners recognize and express their deeper emotions, fostering vulnerability and openness. By unraveling these negative patterns and increasing emotional awareness, couples begin to see each other through a new lens. De-escalation sets the stage for the exploration of the deeper emotional terrain that underlies the surface-level conflicts.


2. Restructuring: Building Secure Attachment

With the negative patterns addressed, the therapy shifts to the second stage, restructuring. This phase focuses on building and reinforcing secure attachment between partners. EFT operates from the perspective that humans have an innate need for emotional connection and that secure attachment is a fundamental component of a thriving relationship.


Therapists guide couples in reshaping their interactions by facilitating emotional responsiveness and accessibility. Partners learn to express their needs and fears in a way that invites understanding and support from each other. Through intentional and positive communication, couples establish a more secure emotional bond, creating a foundation for trust and intimacy.


3. Consolidation: Strengthening the Bond

The final stage of EFT, consolidation, involves solidifying the gains made in therapy and helping couples create a roadmap for maintaining a healthy, connected relationship. In this stage, couples develop strategies for navigating challenges, understanding that conflicts are a natural part of any relationship.


Therapists assist couples in consolidating their emotional gains by reinforcing positive patterns of interaction, fostering ongoing communication, and providing tools for navigating future conflicts. Couples emerge from therapy with a deeper understanding of each other's emotional needs and a strengthened bond that allows for a more secure and fulfilling connection.


Emotionally Focused Therapy offers couples a roadmap for transforming their relationship by delving into the emotional underpinnings of their interactions. Through the stages of de-escalation, restructuring, and consolidation, couples can break free from negative patterns, build a secure attachment, and strengthen their emotional bond, ultimately fostering a healthier and more resilient partnership!

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