Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy at Aspen Therapy

“We understand that if we can help a couple create a safe emotional bond,
then every time a huge stressor comes towards you, you can reach for each
other and support each other.
Not only does that help you to deal with the stressor, but it cements your bond.”

Sue Johnson, Founder of EFT.
EFT Couple

Basis of EFT

When couples have trouble in a relationship, they are struggling with a basic attachment issue. They want answers to questions such as, “Are you there for me?” “Can I count on you?” and “If I call, will you come?” But if a couple is not in tune, asking those questions can be troublesome.

The signals they send can be distorted and misinterpreted, with no easy response. They are caught in a trap. A miscommunication on the part of one person causes an inappropriate reaction from the other, which can lead to escalating behaviors.

A breakdown in a couple’s communication system typically leads to one of two patterns. One is using anger to get a response: “I can’t get you to respond to me, so I will get angry, coercive, and blaming. Occasionally, it will make you pay attention to me.”

Another pattern is that one person shuts down as a way of dealing with difficult feelings or the partner’s anger: “I can’t get you to respond to me with acceptance, so I will try not to need you at all.  I’ll try to shut you out.” Unfortunately, shutting down blocks the other person out and exacerbates the negative emotional system.

In EFT therapy, couples are taught to be responsive. Responsiveness is very powerful; it’s the most powerful tool to use, more powerful than communication skills because couples seldom can use them when hot emotions come up.

Relationships start with an intense connection, but, over time, the level of attentiveness to one another naturally drops off, creating a feeling that the connection has been damaged. If the couple can’t successfully reconnect, “demon dialogues” are likely to occur. These fights can become standard in some relationships, but if they gain momentum, they can take over, resulting in a devastating feeling of aloneness. EFT offers a road map to help couples understand how to self-correct when their “attachment demons” surface.

Nine Steps of EFT

Practitioners who use emotionally focused therapy (EFT) tout the three-phase, nine-step model as one of its best aspects. Before you can launch into the nine steps, however, you must build an alliance with both clients, a process that’s established and maintained throughout the therapy. The therapist has to create a safe environment for the couple to express intense emotions.

Phase 1 is called the “Assess and Deescalate Phase” and is composed of four steps:
Step 1: Identify the conflict.
Step 2: Identify the cycle where conflict is expressed.
Step 3: Access unacknowledged emotions.
Step 4: Reframe — Victims of the cycle and now allies against it.

Steps 1 through 3 are sometimes called the Three Ps: Present Context, Process Patterns, and Primary Affect. Using these steps, the therapist seeks to uncover the “primary” or underlying emotion inherent in the couple’s relationship.

Phase 2 is called the “Change Events Phase” and is composed of three steps:
Step 5: Promote identification of disowned needs.
Step 6: Promote partner acceptance.
Step 7: Facilitate expression of needs and wants.

Phase 2 involves creating corrective emotional experiences.

Phase 3 is called the “Consolidation of Change Phase” and is composed of 2 steps:
Step 8: New solutions
Step 9: Consolidation

Phase 3 involves resolving old problems, which should be easier and more naturally solved since the emotional attachment conflicts have been resolved.