We do a great deal of training in the Gottman method of couples therapy with our clients in our Utah clinic. It’s more widely known outside of the mental health community than EFT. The Gottmans’ work can seem intuitive for many people looking for practical steps for improving their marriages and relationships. Still, Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg’s research, known as EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy), is just as acclaimed in mental health as the Gottman’s in couples therapy.
NOTE: Since EFT was first coined in 1985 by Johnson and Greenberg, and Greenberg shifted his work away from this work of couples attachment in 1986, and Johnson focused her research and writing on EFT since that time, we’ll refer to her as the sole author of EFT on this page from here on out.
What Makes EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) Unique and Helpful?
All of us come into our serious romantic partnerships as individuals with unique experiences from childhood through adulthood, which affects our perspective about relationships. What made Johnson’s work unique and useful as a system for helping couples was her observation that the problem doesn’t belong to one partner—Emotions are part of a system.
This Therapy Solution Is not about Blame
What’s excellent about EFT is the way Johnson focuses the attention away from blaming one person, who may be legitimately having a specific problem that could be causing many difficulties in the relationship. But it’s typically not the whole story.
Emotionally Focused Therapy is useful in our work here in Utah with different types of addiction, where one partner is used to taking all of the responsibility for much drama in their relationship. Couples don’t end up in these problematic spaces, with one person doing everything wrong. It takes two people to make decisions together, with an interconnected emotional dynamic that may be playing off each other, causing a conflict, and patterned mental health behaviors like addiction.
Taking into Account the Individual’s Needs
The marriage you are in may not be causing individual-level emotional difficulties like addiction, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, and personality disorders. Still, the conflicts in your relationship can exacerbate them. Increasing your ability to be intimate in your partnership and experience love can be integral in healing many early childhood attachment wounds, which may be at the heart of these common disorders.
We Offer Both Couples Solutions at Our Utah Therapy Clinic
Both the Gottmans and the Johnson team have been champions of one another’s work. We use both methods at Healing Paths, Inc. in our couples counseling work, and find EFT to be very useful to use with spouses trying to improve their intimacy.
We believe Emotionally Focused Therapy works hand-in-hand with the Gottman Method in helping people strengthen their partnerships. It’s another educational tool we train our therapists in and help clients understand. Our goal is to help couples puzzle-out the complex and challenging process of being in a committed relationship over the long-term.
Who Benefits from EFT?
Some people connect with the ideas and perspectives of EFT. Sue Johnson was trained as a dancer and teaches through her books and manuals how relationships are like a dance between two people interacting and trying to create something like a system, rather than two individual pieces working independently of one another. Her work may be helpful to some people who may instinctively understand systems theories more naturally than more individualistic philosophies.
Where Did EFT Come From?
EFT was built together with the science of adult attachment: a developmental theory of personality and intimate relationships established in the mid-1980s by Johnson and Greenberg. EFT helps couples to understand one another and interact positively at an emotional level.
How this Process Was Developed
The researchers, led by Johnson, observed couples and conducted task analysis to create their comprehensive theory of relationships. After reviewing videos and watching what led to positive change in the observed couples, they had significant insights.
During this process, they could see the cyclical nature of the relationship “dance,” as Johnson would observe and describe.
The Goal of EFT
EFT works towards helping couples find secure attachment together as a couple. Both partners can provide a sense of security to one another while taking personal responsibility for their own emotions.
Egalitarian Perspective about Partnerships
Johnson was progressive in their perspective about relationships when they developed EFT, seeing each member of the partnership as co-equals in the same system. Because of this, her modality is as relevant to LGBTQ relationships as heterosexual marriages.
The Role of Love in Emotionally Focused Therapy
Sue Johnson believed love is a logical process and one of our most fundamental needs. Our only defense against emotional starvation is love. It’s our most basic need. EFT helps couples feel loved and express love in their committed partnership.
We tend to grow as individuals, but when we are in a relationship with someone, we feel a close, loving connection with our partner. The problem, however, is that often we create relationships before we have become self-aware of what we need emotionally in a mature relationship.
EFT allows the therapist and couple to look at the individual’s needs, sometimes working with an entire family, and consider how a whole family works together as an emotional system. Those individual needs can be isolated, a different therapist can be assigned to the person who may have challenges outside of the marriage or partnership to be strengthened and worked on, keeping in perspective how these independent issues play into the system as a whole.
Emotionally Focused Therapy Should Not Be Confused with Emotional Freedom Technique
We at Healing Paths, Inc. are licensed clinical social workers in the state of Utah and have experts trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy. This is not the case with the Emotional Freedom Technique, an alternative therapy option you may see offered. We do not provide this option and don’t have an opinion about its efficacy.
EFT Is an Important Couples Counseling Technique
As we work with many Utah couples struggling to find answers to heal conflict in their marriages, we want to make sure we offer every insight possible. We have found EFT to be an invaluable set of therapeutic tools, designed by Sue Johnson, one of the leading researchers in the field of improving adult intimacy. If you’d like to learn more about EFT and how one of our therapists trained in this method can help your partnership, contact us today.