Emotionally focused couples therapy (EFT) is a short term, structured approach to couples therapy. EFT began its use as a treatment practice in the 1980’s and has been refined and further developed to be used with families and individuals. Over the past 30 years, a significant body of research showing the effectiveness of EFT now exists. Such findings include the facts that 70-75% of couples using EFT are able to reach recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements in their relationships. These results occur for many different kinds of couples, across different cultural groups, and in a variety of therapeutic settings.
If you or your spouse have been considering divorce or separation, having difficulty overcoming differences, or find that you are drifting apart, EFT may be something you wish to consider to save your marriage. Even if you end up moving forwards with a divorce, the tools you learn in couples therapy may help you to have a more collaborative divorce and positive relationship after divorce, which can be important if you and your spouse have children together.
Goals of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
When a couple decides to undertake Emotionally Focused Therapy to help prevent a marital separation or divorce, there are a number of goals the couple seeks to attain with the help of one-another and their EFT-trained therapist. These goals include:
- Understanding the nature of their emotional responses and how to expand and change them in trigger situations.
- Creating new levels of interaction and adjust the negative interaction patterns that couples create with their behaviors and responses.
- Develop or redevelop a secure bond of trust between the couple experiencing marital unhappiness or distress.
The EFT process can help couples who are struggling with feelings of helplessness and/or anger they are feeling toward their spouse or themselves. Using the stages and steps for EFT, couples learn to move away from their established relationship behaviors (withdrawal, intimidation, fear…) and confront their feelings and the reasons that lie underneath them. The couple then begins to work on ways to communicate their individual wants and needs in a safe and respectful manner and to foster new ways to interact with one another.
While the steps outlined below are not designed to take the place of working with a trained and licensed mental health counselor, they should provide interested individuals with an overview of the EFT process and method.
The EFT counselor works with the couple in a stable and comfortable environment to assess and stabilize the relationship. During this stage, the following steps are taken:
- Identify the conflict issues between the couple.
- Identify the cycle of negative interactions where the conflict issues are.
- Determine the emotions underlying the position each individual takes when the cycle occurs.
- Present the conflict in terms of the unacknowledged emotions and attachment needs.
Throughout Stage 1 couples learn to identify and articulate the emotions that underlie their negative interaction cycles and are better prepared to work together to over them.
The EFT counselor works with the couple to reestablish the bond of trust in their marriage. During this stage, the following steps are taken:
- Develop a deeper understand of each other’s needs, emotions, and self-perception.
- Encourage and foster mutual acceptance of each individual’s experiences.
- Develop and practice constructive new ways of expressing needs and wants as a way to restructure prior conflict issues.
Throughout Stage 2 the counselor works with the couple to re-frame and understand the emotional experiences that have caused conflict for the couple.Trying new ways of communicating and behaving may be difficult at first, but as couples become more aware of their interactions, they have a better chance of stopping negative behavior patterns from reemerging.
The EFT counselor works with the couple to integrated their newly acquired skills and knowledge into everyday life. During this stage, the following steps are taken:
- Using the new knowledge that EFT has provided the couple about themselves and each other, the couple develops new solutions to old problems.
- Consolidate and integrate the newly developed skills into the couple’s cycles of behavior leading to deeper understanding and mutual trust.
As couples reach the final step of emotionally focused couples therapy they have developed an ability to reflect on their emotional experiences (both individual and mutual) and self-concepts. EFT provides the necessary knowledge and skills for couples to now deal with conflict more successfully and with mutually satisfying outcomes.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy in Fort Collins
If you believe undertaking Emotionally Focused Therapy may be helpful for you and your spouse or partner, and you reside in the Fort Collins, Larimer County, or Northern Colorado area, the Psychology Today provider directory offers a list of licensed mental health professionals that serve the area.
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