Emotionally Focused Therapy

For our final blog entry in the series on couples counselling approaches we’ll be examining Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT). This type of therapy is based on theories of adult attachment and bonding. It aims to increase security, closeness and connection in intimate relationships.
Developed in Canada during the 1980’s by Psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson, EFCT is now widely practiced in the treatment of couples, as well as individuals and families. In 1998, Dr. Johnson also founded the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT), which provides training to mental health practitioners and conducts clinical research on EFCT.
Emotionally Focused Therapy draws on the concepts that form Attachment Theory, which states that strong emotional and physical attachment is critical to personal development. This forms the basis behind the thinking in EFT, namely that conflict in intimate relationships is caused by an individual’s fear of being abandoned, leading to feelings of insecurity and mistrust in their relationship. In turn, these feelings of mistrust tend to lead to negative behaviours and responses towards one’s partner, triggering a cycle of negative patterns of interaction and misunderstanding.
Like Person-Centred Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy takes a non-directive approach, aiming to assist the client in gaining a better understanding of themselves, by speaking openly and honestly to a therapist. During EFT the therapist guides the clients through three main phases, made up of the following nine steps:
De-escalation Phase

  • Identify the couples’ key issues.
  • Identify how these issues are expressed in negative patterns of interaction.
  • Identify the fears and negative emotions underlying the negative interaction patterns.
  • Reframe the issues as unmet attachment and emotional needs.

Changing Interaction Patterns Phase

  • Identify each individual’s disowned attachment style and emotional needs.
  • Teach couple to express acceptance and compassion for each other’s attachment and emotional needs.
  • Teach couple to express their attachment and emotional needs to restructure patterns of interaction and promote bonding.

Consolidation and Integration

  • Teach couple new ways to communicate about old issues, and develop new solutions to them.
  • Teach couple how to use the skills gained during therapy but outside of the therapy room.

For more information about Emotionally Focused Therapy see the ICEEFT website. If you think EFCT could benefit your relationship, or if your relationship is in need of support, we have counsellors who utilise EFT in their practice, and others who use a range of other, equally valid modalities. Call (02) 8002 1020 or contact us to speak to us about making a booking today.


  1. Bradbury, T.N., Fincham, F.D., & Beach, S.R.H. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62
    (4), 964–980. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00964.x.
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