Relationships are based on the connections that we have with others and our romantic partner is an important attachment figure.
As such, our partners have a significant emotional and physiological impact on us, just as we do on them. Attachment begins to take hold during childhood, Dr. Johnson’s research brought to light the extreme importance of a strong relationship with a primary caretaker during these early years. A child who forms a secure attachment early on tends to develop a sense of inner stability, confidence, and security in relationships that stays with them into adulthood.
In adulthood, as we attach to romantic partners we tend to constantly be assessing (usually unconsciously) the security of our emotional bond with our partner. We may ask questions such as: Are they going to be there for me? If I show you my needs, will I get rejected? Can I lean on you when things get tough? Am I emotionally safe?
In secure loving relationships, when a partner turns to the other for comfort in times of distress and vulnerability they often find the security and safety that they are longing for. As a result, the bond of love and commitment between them becomes stronger and more powerful.
Sadly, when we fail to find the connection and safety we are looking for, or when our needs go unmet, our nervous system often becomes reactive. When this happens, we may behave in ways that result in greater disconnection. For example, we may act out in anger or jealousy. We may increase our emotional pursuit of our partner, criticize or shame them, shut down, freeze or emotionally leave the relationship. Unfortunately, these behaviors often produce the opposite of what we are really longing for, it tends to push our partner further away instead of closer to us. The relationship becomes dangerous rather than secure and feelings of fear and helplessness replace security and safety in the relationship.
Unlike other forms of couples therapy, EFT moves beyond surface arguments in order to help couples really understand what is taking place when their cycle becomes activated. It is the goal of the EFT therapist to identify these patterns, understand their underlying meaning and to reprocess the emotions and attachment longings that really drive the cycle. When those negative cycles, begin to be replaced with positive, nurturing and secure connections, these positive cycles become self- reinforcing and create permanent change. This process reduces couple’s conflict while creating a more secure emotional bond.
What will a session with an EFT therapist feel like?
In sessions, we will begin with an open dialogue, mapping out the predictable negative interaction cycle that takes over your relationship. After discovering and exploring your relationship’s negative cycle- pinpointing exactly what happens when, how and why – we will uncover deep emotional needs and desires that, when triggered, are currently manifesting themselves in ways that perpetuate the cycle.
Once we understand what is actually taking place, we can work towards building a secure deep bond. With my help, each of you will practice being emotionally accessible and open to each other with much renewed sense of confidence despite of how scary the process may initially feel. Over time, we will work to make this reach much more secure by using repetition and practice of a new positive cycle of interaction during our sessions.
Because EFT is a short- term, structured approach to couples and family therapy, couples are typically seen between eight and 20 sessions.
Research has shown that 70-75% of couples undergoing EFT successfully move from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvements in their relationship. The recovery that these couples experience is quite lasting with little evidence of returning to previous experienced distress.
EFT is presently being used in many different kinds of couples in private practice across the world, university training centers and hospitals. Couples who are in distress who may benefit from EFT include partners who suffer from depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic illness to name a few disorders. EFT has a proven track to be a powerful and moving approach for couples struggling with infidelity and other traumatic incidents.
This text has been adapted from the website of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, www.iceeft.com