Emotionally focused couples therapy: An attachment-based treatment.

  • Johnson S
  • Woolley S
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Abstract

Emotionally focused couples therapy (EFT) is an empirically based and validated, brief approach to changing distressed couples' rigid interaction patterns and emotional responses and promoting the development of a secure bond between partners. Research consistently indicates that the majority of couples recover from couple distress with EFT and that results are stable, even with vulnerable populations. EFT targets absorbing affect states that organize "stuck" patterns of interaction in distressed relationships, These patterns become self-reinforcing, often taking the form of critical pursuit followed by distance and defensiveness. EFT combines an experiential, intrapsychic focus on the ongoing construction of inner experience, with a systemic focus on present interactional responses and ensuing cyclical patterns. In EFT, key elements of experience, such as attachment needs and fears, are unfolded and crystallized in therapy sessions, and new positive interactions are structured and enacted to create secure bonds. Emotions are seen as powerful, healthy, and informative, indicating to clients what it is they need and how to engage with a partner. Expressions of emotion elicit particular responses from others. The EFT therapist uses advanced empathy to immerse himself or herself in the client's immediate experience and expand that experience. Clients are continually led to more fully experience, become aware of, and process their emotions. Attachment theory serves as an adult theory of love that provides the EFT therapist with a map to the drama of distress and primary emotions and needs, a language for effective dependency, a direction and a focus for therapy, and a guide to the key moves and moments that define an adult love relationship. The EFT therapist is thereby allowed to zero in and help couples create not just a less aversive relationship with less conflict but a more secure emotional bond. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(chapter)

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Authors

  • Susan Johnson

  • Scott R Woolley

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