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My questions about Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy – and a few
answers
Anne Power
Abstract
This paper provides a brief overview of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) along with some reservations
about the method. The paper considers questions and critiques which are often raised about the model and does so
from the point of view of a practitioner new to the method, who has become convinced of the value of the approach
whilst not wanting to jettison an object relations understanding. The segregation between different groups of
attachment researchers and practitioners is noted.
To provide variation the term ‘marital’ is used occasionally, referring to a couple bond rather than to
a wedded pair. The systemic pattern between a pursuer and a with-drawer which is discussed here could refer to a same
sex or a heterosexual couple, despite the different gender alignments which operate in in each case.
Key Words
EFT, attachment, couple, pursuer, with-drawer, cycle, conflict, model
INTRODUCTION
I came to Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) through a very gradual process. It would be fair to
say that I have dragged my feet, or actually stood still, as I weighed up my object relations instincts against
my interest in a new way of working which appeared to be highly user-friendly for couples. After several
years of supervision and occasional workshops I proceeded with the training and I believe that my clients
have benefited as a result but, as with other models in which I have trained, I continue to question the way I
use it. I hope this paper will be of interest to those who have heard speak of EFT and who feel some
bemusement as to what its appeal could be. I would like to be clear that I am not speaking from an official
EFT position, my original training was in attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapy followed by a
systemic training with Relate. I am a newcomer to EFT.
The adult couple relationship is recognized by researchers as being an attachment bond, with the typical
signs of seeking proximity in distress and registering protest on separation (Zeifman & Hazan, 2008). The
degree of security in an attachment relationship will depend largely on the security of the two partners’
internal working models and their capacity for care-seeking and care-giving. In EFT language we might say
that the need for a responsive, accessible and engaged other is universal but the way we signal this need and
how we experience safety will vary. Those who have not had the privilege of attachment security as they
grew up, will have both a greater need for that resource and a reduced capacity to request it and to benefit
from it and of course to provide it for their partner.
The aim of EFT is to facilitate healing in the couple so that the relationship can again, (or possibly for the
first time) become a secure base for both partners. As in psycho-dynamic work there is no direct intention to
teach better communications skills or to sort out arguments, whether big or small, though when the work is
successful these benefits could be expected. I think we could say that both models see the therapy as
providing a temporary relationship or space in which the couple can re-establish connection, grow in trust
and empathy and thereby become their own secure base. EFT combines understanding from different
therapy traditions – most clearly attachment theory, systemic therapy and person centered counselling and
offers a way of understanding and working which has proved to be both client-friendly and validated by
outcome studies (Johnson, Hunsley, Greenberg, & Schindler, 1999; Greenman & Johnson, 2013; Dalgleish,
Johnson et al 2015)
An EFT therapy is conceived as a staged process with the initial work being a ‘de-escalation’ of the negative
cycle in which the couple have become mired. Johnson, the founder of EFT, describes how such an
entrenched pattern prevents thinking in the couple.
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“In a distressed relationship, inner and outer realities, context and experience, mesh into a tight
negative system that becomes an absorbing state and precludes the evolution of new patterns or
responses.” (Johnson & Greenberg, 1995:122)

Type of service: Academic Paper writing
Type of assignment: Essay
Subject: Psychology
Pages/words: 9/2475
Number of Sources: 0
Academic level: Master’s
Paper Format: APA
Line spacing: Double
Language style: US English