Save Your Relationship With Emotionally Focused Therapy

Saving your relationship may be more possible than you realize.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples is an effective form of relationship counseling that has been rigorously researched over the last 20+ years. It was developed by psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson of the International Centre for Excellence in EFT, based in Ottawa, Canada.

EFT’s track record is impressive: 90% of couples who complete EFT demonstrate improvements in their relationships, while 70-75% of couples move from distress to total recovery.

EFT is a short-term approach, with couples averaging 8-20 sessions if there is no history of trauma.

Goals of EFT

EFT works toward helping couples break out of rigid cycles of escalating negative emotion. This is done with the therapist’s help to access and express unspoken emotional experiences underneath surface layers of hostility.

The de-escalation of negative cycles and an expanded emotional experience help couples transform their typical negative patterns of interaction. As a result, EFT achieves its ultimate goal to help couples create a secure emotional bond with each other.

Basis of EFT

EFT is based on a theory of adult love that has been supported by the latest research in neuroscience. At the core of EFT is the idea that people are wired to connect, and that a safe and secure connection with another is not only a birthright but necessary for health and happiness.

Despite messages from society that tell people to be strong and independent, EFT recognizes that humans are social creatures.

On a biological level, to be cast away from the tribe and truly "independent" would be impossible, and one would die. EFT helps partners tune into themselves and recognize this basic need to connect.

Couples come to therapy when they are having difficulty feeling connected or emotionally secure with each other.

 When partners cannot connect, they have a limited number of strategies to cope, and such strategies often set up escalating cycles of negative emotion. A classic example involves the couple in which one partner is angry, demanding and aggressive and the other is shut down and withdrawn.

An Emotionally Focused Therapist will work with couples to explore softer, rawer emotions underneath the escalating patterns of hostility. In a safe environment with the therapist, couples can express their more vulnerable sides with each other, and learn about themselves and each other in ways that are completely new, reassuring and more connected.

EFT is strength-based and recognizes the resiliency of couples. It helps couples reframe their problematic interactions as desperate attempts to connect with each other or protect their relationship.

Couples best suited for EFT

EFT has helped partners of all sexual orientations and religious beliefs, from various cultures around the world. EFT is for partners who are committed to each other and improving their relationships.

While EFT has helped countless couples overcome the aftermath of infidelity, it is not suitable when a partner is actively cheating. Similarly, partners struggling with serious ongoing addictions are also inappropriate candidates for EFT.

 EFT helps partners be available and present for each other; current infidelity and addiction most often prevent that possibility.

EFT encourages partners to be vulnerable with each other. For this reason, relationships affected by intimate partner violence/domestic violence are not appropriate for EFT.

Where to find an EFT Therapist and learn more

The International Centre for Excellence in EFT (ICEEFT) is the accrediting board that certifies therapists in EFT. Therapists certified in EFT are listed by area on the ICEEFT website.

Sue Johnson’s book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, is a great starting point for any couple interested in learning more about EFT.


Byrne, M., Carr, A., & Clark, M. (2004). The efficacy of behavioral couples therapy and 
emotionally focused therapy for couple distress. Contemporary Family Therapy: 
An International Journal
, 26, 361-387.

Johnson, S., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L. & Schindler, D. (1999) Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Status & challenges (A meta-analysis). Journal of Clinical PsychologyScience and Practice, 6,67-79.

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