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  • Writer's pictureHeather Gibson, MA, LMFT

Emotion Focused Therapy – What it is and What the Benefits Are

Updated: Jun 13

Written by: Marissa Massimini, AMFT


Our emotions can often feel useless or that they get in the way of us navigating relationships, feeling satisfied or reaching our life goals. Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) is an approach that challenges this idea! The framework of EFT views emotions as an important internal compass that helps us identify our needs, life direction, and are the signals that will lead us to reaching our goals both within and outside of the therapy room!


If you feel that exploring therapy in this way resonates with you or a loved one, visit our website to connect with a Positive Change therapist that can support you through this framework.


What is Emotion Focused Therapy?


EFT is an approach that focuses on helping you develop skills to identify and express your emotional experience effectively. The more that you can acknowledge and then be guided by this internal compass, the more likely you can understand your needs and how to meet them within ourselves or our relationships.  


Emotions can be viewed as adaptive/helpful, or maladaptive/unhelpful. Have you ever raised your voice in frustration, and realized later that you were actually feeling really sad? Or shut someone out in anger when you were really feeling afraid of saying the wrong thing?  These are examples of when maintaining focus on your maladaptive/unhelpful emotions leads you to feeling dysregulated and unable to genuinely experience or connect with  yourself or others. When you are consumed by these maladaptive emotions you often feel the need to shut down or push others away because of this stuck feeling. This often leads to more pain and a never ending cycle of disconnection and discomfort! 

Through learning to sit with and acknowledge the discomfort of our emotional experience with the support of an EFT therapist, you can then start to have space for our adaptive/helpful emotions that often take time to access. Through this, you can start to learn to identify and express your needs, values, and goals, which will greatly increase your ability to feel grounding and fulfilled! 


Through this lens, EFT is an approach that has been seen through extensive research to be helpful for couple relationships in addition to individuals, with 70-75% of couples who receive EFT therapy expressing increased recovery from stress and happiness within relationships. (Johnson, 2008)


Emotion Focused Couples Therapy


It can often feel difficult to navigate the emotional landscape of couple relationships. Relationships are very emotionally intense, in many ways due to them being  so important to us as social beings. EFT frames relationships as based on emotional connections, called attachment bonds. These attachment bonds are present in any close relationship, parents, partners and siblings alike!  EFT emphasizes that as social beings we are wired to need this emotional connection. 


By acknowledging the adaptive emotions that exist within these attachment bonds with the support of an EFT therapist, partners are able to more effectively express and respond to their and their partner’s internal compass and needs. These emotionally healing experiences  support you and your partner in having the space to acknowledge possible pain and foster the openness and empathy needed for a loving and fulfilling relationship.

For more information on what Couples Therapy looks like and how it could be beneficial for you, check out this blog on our website!


Benefits of Emotion Focused Therapy:


1. Improved Emotional Awareness

  • By increasing your focus on emotions, you become more aware of them in your day-to-day life. As you deepen this practice, previous emotions that have been pushed down or ignored will be more accessible and can be expressed as a way to fully experience and connect with yourself. 

2. More Empathy

  • As you gain more emotional awareness and access, you will be able to be more open and accepting of others’ emotions. This will help you feel more empathy and a genuine sense of understanding as others move through possibly intense or overwhelming emotional experiences. 

3. Improved Ability to Cope with Harmful/Unhelpful Emotions

  • As previously mentioned, EFT involves learning the skills to identify and better respond to “maladaptive/unhelpful” emotions. Through this work, it will feel easier to acknowledge and move through these emotions, as opposed to feeling dysregulated or consumed by them.

4. Greater Emotional Management

  • While engaging in emotion-focused work, your relationship with your emotional experience will shift. You will feel more able to approach, explore and express emotions as sources of helpful information within your day-to-day life. Through this shift, emotions will feel more manageable. 

5. Impulse Control Improvement

  • Impulsivity is in many ways driven by intense emotional dysregulation. During moments of overwhelm, many often feel less capable of making intentional decisions. Working with an EFT therapist supports you in increasing your ability to stay regulated and intentional in your behaviors.


Emotion Focused Family Therapy


In addition to couple relationships, EFT can be a helpful therapy approach for families. As you become more aware of your emotional experience and can hold more empathy for others, your ability to successfully navigate daily life stressors and conflict within your family will greatly increase! Overwhelming, unhelpful emotions or general impulses that may have gotten in the way of effective communication will also feel more manageable. 

As you work with your family members to practice identifying and expressing your emotions, and acknowledging your shared attachment bonds, you and your family members will feel more seen and accepted. Overall, EFT can provide you and your family the framework to establish a much greater secure base of understanding, connection and security.


Emotion Focused Therapy at Positive Change Counseling Center 


Overall, EFT therapy is an effective approach to support individuals, couples and families in navigating the difficult emotional landscape within our daily life. You will feel more empowered to approach, identify and express your experience and needs to others, leading you to greater fulfillment.   If you feel that EFT therapy is a good fit for you and your therapy goals, reach out to connect with one of our experienced EFT therapists at this page!


References:

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, 2008, by Sue Johnson





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