Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an evidence-based approach to couples counselling which focuses on understanding and managing the emotional states of clients. In particular, EFT looks at the attachment relationships that clients have with the people in their lives. This approach seeks to help couples understand their own emotions, as well as their relationship to their partner.
At the heart of EFT is the idea that when people experience strong negative emotions, such as fear or anxiety, they tend to either disconnect from the people they are close to, or hold on more tightly to them. This can create a push-pull effect where one partner wants to connect and draw close, while the other wants to withdraw and self soothe. The aim of EFT is to help clients work through this push-pull dance and connect with their partner in a healthier way.
Emotionally Focused Therapy and Attachment
Attachment styles form an important part of EFT. This is because they inform the ways that individuals respond to stress and connect with those they are close to. People most often develop attachment styles based on their early primary relationships with a parent or caregiver, however these can change with life experience.
Generally speaking, there are three main attachment styles: secure, avoidant and anxious.
Secure attachment occurs when people can express their emotions in a regulated way and successfully connect with those they are close to. Avoidant attachment happens when people have difficulty expressing their emotions and struggle to form connections with others. Anxious attachment occurs when people have difficulty regulating their emotions and feel a strong need for closeness, leading to clingy behaviour.
Using EFT, therapists help clients work through their emotions and recognize how their communication patterns comes from their attachment style. An important part of the work is to help each partner understand why they have developed a certain attachment style and how it is impacting all of their relationships. By doing so, they can then work on developing healthier relationships with those they care about and move away from the patterns that have been established in the past.