Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT) is a structured approach/strong>to couples therapy that helps couples understand their attachment/bond to one another and to understand

what is happening between them. When couples are not attached to one another with a “secure attachment” they can experience varying levels of conflict and distress. EFCT provides the structure to help couples identify their “fear dance” and the ways they can successfully connect and attach to each other emotionally. Research studies find that 70-75% of couples using EFCT move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements.

Although EFCT might feel or appear unstructured, it is done within a framework based on empirical research on the nature of marital distress and adult attachment.

  • EFCT is based on clear, explicit conceptualizations of marital distress and adult love.
  • EFCT is collaborative and respectful of clients combining experiential Rogerian techniques with structural systemic interventions.
  • Change strategies and interventions are specified.
  • Key moves and moments in the change process have been mapped into 9 steps and 3 change events.
  • EFCT has been validated by over 20 years of empirical research. There is also research on the change processes and predictors of success.
  • EFCT has been applied to many different kinds of problems and populations.
  • Goal: To expand and re-organize key emotional responses – the music of the attachment dance.
  • Goal: To create a shift in partners’ interactional positions and initiate new cycles of interaction.
  • Goal: To foster the creation of a secure bond between partners.

An Example of the Change Process:New cycles of bonding interactions occur and replace negative cycles such as pursue-withdraw or criticize-defend. These positive cycles then become self-reinforcing and create permanent change. The relationship becomes a safe haven and a healing environment for both partners.

Consider the following example and see if it feels familiar to you:In a therapy session, a husband’s numb withdrawal expands into a sense of helplessness, a feeling of being intimidated. He begins to assert his need for respect and, in doing so, becomes more accessible to his wife. He moves from “There is no point in talking to you. I don’t want to fight.” to “I do want to be close. I want you to give me a chance. Stop poking me and let me learn to be there for you.” His wife’s critical anger then expands into fear and sadness. She can now ask for and elicit comfort. She moves from “You just don’t care. You don’t get it.” to “It is so difficult to say – but I need you to hold me – reassure me – can you?”

For more information on EFCT, go to Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy - Dr. Sue Johnson

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