Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Have you tried or considered trying couple or family therapy before? Perhaps you tried counseling with a pastor or faith-based model? Many approaches to couples therapy take sides, suggest a moral high ground, or attempt to coach individuals into their view of an “ideal relationship.” Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is a radically different approach to couples therapy. It is focused on strengthening connection by creating a safe space for discussion, facilitating healthy emotional expression, and reworking learned interactional patterns in the relationship. 

Have you ever been arguing with your partner about something that seems like a small issue but inexplicably feels like a much bigger issue? This often is related to learned interactional patterns. A lot of the way we interact with our partners is actually determined by our early life experiences with our primary caregivers. These patterns are referred to as attachment. Much of these interactional patterns are subconscious, meaning we don’t notice how our current patterns are repeating early life patterns. EFT helps couples see how their patterns have been influenced by attachment and learn responses that are more adaptive to the current relationship. 

Have you ever felt like you and your partner are speaking two different languages and just can’t hear and understand each other? Because we all have learned patterns of interacting that are unique to our life experiences, sometimes the way we communicate and express emotion has a different meaning to us than it does to our partner. It can be difficult to recognize or explain these differences to each other, particularly when it comes to highly emotionally charged topics. Having an objective third party to observe and gently point out these differences can allow for new understanding and increased empathy. 

Have you had a counselor or pastor who doesn’t understand what you and your partner are actually looking for in counseling or continually sides with one partner? You and your partner and the experts on your relationship, you are the only two who know the information we need to know to make change. EFT is a collaborative process, the therapist is flexible, sometimes leading, but often following what is most important to you and your partner. In EFT the relationship is the client rather than either individual in the relationship. As there are two partners, each individual is only responsible for their 50% of each interaction, not more, not less. Both individuals will get equal space to explore their behaviors and express their experience. 

EFT is designed to make you and your partner allies rather than enemies through the many difficulties of life. Through EFT you will learn to turn towards each other in moments of stress and be a resource to each other rather than another stressor. You will learn patterns that encourage and reward authenticity, so that your emotional experiences can meld together and support each other, rather than clash or exacerbate one another.

Article by Justyne Ortquist, MS, MEd, LLPC

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