Change occurs in therapy though a “Corrective emotional experience.” Frank

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

spiral2grow Marriage Family Therapy, a leading provider of EFT – Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples in NYC, has psychotherapists that include emotionally focused – EFT – counselors, who are expert in the EFT approach and its application in couples therapy as well as marriage therapy. spiral2grow, located in midtown Manhattan in New York City offers Emotionally Focused Treatment for couples who are interested in healing, rebuilding, improving and enhancing their relationship. spiral2grow also provides other therapeutic modalities.

Emotionally focused therapy for couples – overview

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is an evidence-based therapy. It is one of the most effective treatment for couples facing history of trauma, depression, grief, abuse, chronic illness, eating disorders, and PTSD. EFT for couples was developed by Dr. Leslie Greenberg and Dr. Susan Johnson. The modality developed out of the humanistic and experiential philosophy with its emphasis on the importance on emotional experience. In this modality the key is to create a safe environment in each individuals in the relationship feel safe and secure, which allow personal growth and improvement of the relationship.  Attitude of non-judgmental and compassionate is elementary ingredient in which couples encourage to explore and experiment. As EFT was developed specifically for couples, the model incorporated systems theory, which understands individual experience in terms of interactional cycles and interpersonal contexts. By conceptualizing primary adult relationships as attachment bonds, EFT targets the issues of emotional engagement and security that are relevant for so many distressed couples.

Goal of EFT

The goal of Emotionally Focused Therapy is to provide both partners with a “safe haven,” a “secure base,” in provide sense of comfort and stability for the purpose of supporting individual autonomy, especially during time of crisis. EFT recognizes individual issues in crisis and that to prevent the natural response to it with distress to a lack of security in attachment relationships. The automatic (even unconscious) and unhealthy reactivity to the distress is reflected in a couple’s vicious cycle, as each partner’s desire to fulfill his or her attachment needs, this attempt triggers the other partner.

How EFT Helps

EFT is now one of the leading forms of couples therapy. EFT emphasizes a healthy emotional engagement, secure attachment, and positive responsiveness between partners in constructive relationships. In a survey conducted, 70% of couples receiving EFT recover from relationship distress and 90% of them have shown high degree of improvement. Many of them were described their new dynamics beyond just improvement to enhancement. EFT builds the necessary relationship skills to related to each other with compassion, communicate with care and emotionally connect while encourage deescalation. It clearly emphasizes personal responsibility and proactivity. It allows couples to overcome viscus cycle, negative, repetitive, and rigid patterns of interaction that prevent them from having a closer and more caring relationship. The process of EFT allows a deeper understanding of their own and each other’s feelings, and to find new ways of being with each other that facilitate a stronger bond and a more fulfilling connection.

EFT explores and identifies the cycle in terms of behaviors and then in terms of underlying feelings and needs. Couples are helped to access and process emotion using interventions such as reflecting, validating, heightening, and emphatic exploration. Interactions are restructured as the problematic cycle is tracked, explored, and reframed to highlight the partners’ importance to each other as well as their longing for a secure connection. As partners’ de-escalate, EFT therapists support them in both expressing more vulnerable emotions and in responding to each other in an attuned and responsive way.

EFT Benefits

Couples facing challenges in their relationship can overcome common obstacles that create distress, including:

  • recovering from infidelity and affairs

  • lack of intimacy, passion and sexuality

  • clashes about finances and money

  • negative cycle dynamics, unproductive, hurtful arguments

  • parenting as well as in-law issues

Main Concepts of EFT

Basic Ideas of EFT:

    • Attachment and emotional needs and expression are key to the treatment and main focused of addressing. EFT therapists emphasize the importance of couples’ emotional engagement. Counselors validate partners’ emotions and attachment needs, respond genuinely to the partners individually, and try to empower the two partners’ to heal themselves and their relationship.
    • The process of uncovering emotions is an effort to reveal and integrate marginalized and denied emotions by identifying and engaging them in the moment.
    • The place of therapy serves as a safe place to be vulnerable. It is viewed as a healing place where a corrective emotional experience between partners happens. When couples are out of a distress mode and feel safe, it allows then to create a therapeutic change. The psychotherapist is egalitarian, facilitator and empowers the partners to be responsible and proactive.
    • The therapist avoids pathologization, and remined the couples that current negative emotional reactions were adaptive at some time and place. What seem as now irrational now actually was once aa logical response. However, previously adaptive behaviors are now mismatched to the situation, or are rigidly practiced, and so are now maladaptive.
    • Systems theory combines two individuals and creates a whole relationship that is more than the sum of the part(ner)s. For Partner 1, inner emotional experiences influence external experiences, which in turn prime the person for the same inner emotional experiences, re-influencing external experiences…. This cycle for Partner 1 feeds itself and the same cycle for Partner 2, whose cycle feeds itself and that of Partner 1…. The whole thing takes on a life of its own and becomes “a self-maintaining positive feedback loop”. This means positive encounters can have a compounding effect, while experiences in which one partner failed to respond to the other’s needs (attachment injuries) can warp perceptions of future experiences.
    • Humans are not only social creators but also a bonding mammals.

Process of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

    • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) integrates two main perspectives; humanistic and systemic approaches. It states that attachment theory of close relationship is applied to adults, and attends to both intra-psychic and interpersonal. The founders of that EFT approach are Susan Johnson and Les Greenberg, which build this approach bases on theorist such as Carl Rogers, bertalanffy and Bowlby.

Three stages and nine step of Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT):

    • Building of an Alliance with the Therapy – This stage is an ongoing process that spans the whole of therapy. But it should be the starting point of the counseling and first goal for therapy. It is important to create a safe holding environment for the partners in order for them to open up and share intense and difficult emotions. Few of the elements that are keys to doing this well are: build trust, be genuine, be transparent, serve as a consultant who educates and moves with them.

Phase one – Assess and De-Escalate

Step 1 Create alliance and identify the relationship conflict issues.

Step 2 Identify the negative interaction cycle where the issue is expressed

Step 3 Access unacknowledged emotions underline the position each partner takes in regards to the issue.

Step 4 Reframe the problem in terms of cycle, accompanying emotions and attachment needs (as well as victims allies)

    • The main idea in these steps in to understand the context, stay in the present, figure out process patterns, and primary affect. In this phase you have to seek out vulnerable emotions, and very slowly build the awareness of them.
    • In this phase a good EFT therapists use techniques like:
    • Set supportive atmosphere by speaking slowly, calmly, and patiently, checking with the client to make sure they are remaining engaged.
    • Provide reflective statements (“It seems you are feeling terribly scared by that”) for empathy, acknowledgment and validation.
    • Ask evocative questions (“What’s happening now for you as i say that… What’s it like to say that out loud, here and now?”). These reflective questions focus on the meta-emotion, or emotions about emotions and expressing feelings. It can help one partner connect to their feelings and be mindful of what they feel in their bodies.
    • Use heightening (using images like “It feels like a noose around your throat that could strangle you at any time” to evoke images that captures their emotional experiences, or requesting the partners to repeat something that seems to be important).
    • Going deeper with emotions – The key is to shift the emotional expressions from the secondary aggressive ones to the underlying primary vulnerable ones, moving the couples toward a softening or corrective experience.

Phase two – Change Events

Step 5 Promote Identification of Disowned Needs, emotions and hidden aspects of self

Step 6 Promote Partner Acceptance of the other person view and experience

Step 7 Facilitate Expression of Needs and Wants to restructure the dynamic based on new perspective, while promoting bonding experiences.

    • The main idea in phase two is to create corrective emotional experiences. Utilizing “I” statements to identify their needs for themselves, promoting the partner to accept and maybe meet these needs, and coaching them to effectively compromise and mainly to give (rather than focusing on receiving).
    • In this phase psychotherapist uses techniques like:
    • Tracking (“Is this what it’s like at home? What’s missing?). Using the calmness in the session to reflect on the real (challenging) dynamic that take place home.
    • Reframing and restructuring to clarify, deepen and expand experiences. This sometimes means translating experiences for the partner for increased understanding and empathy.
    • “Asoftening” – Helping partner to hear and listen and realize the partner is not a monster, bad person that they saw before. Rather, the partner is just a hurt and scared person like them.
    • In this phase EFT couples therapist hope to expand clients’ awareness of their inner emotional processes, change the ways they feel about problems, and thus change the way they experience the world. Also the psychotherapist affirms for the clients how hard it is to do this, how risky it feels, and make sure the partner integrates this, and the mate realizes how hard it is for the partner.

Phase Three – Consolidation of Change

Step 8 New Solutions – All parties involved are being creative in finding appropriate solution

Step 9 Consolidation

    • In this third phase, as couples removed contamination and now became in a better place, while engaging constructively, providing positive energy and implementing healthy skills, couples able to address old problems and resolve it more maturely easier and more naturally).
    • Impasses
    • In addition to focusing on successes, Emotionally focused therapist address failures and impasses. Bellow are few techniques that can be used when therapy progress seems stuck:
    • Conduct individual sessions to influence that individual and to explore what is needed to be happening to unstuck.
    • Use of “disinquisitions.” Disinquisitions are stories, fables, metaphors… that invite introspection but don’t demand it. The disinquistions normalize couples’ experience by “reducing” it to a basic and universal struggle, and offer a new way of looking at issues without labeling things for the client.
    • It is important to look for an attachment injury that may be preventing progress.

Read more about couples therapy in New York City.

When to Use Emotionally Focused Therapy

Couples and families in distress can benefit from EFT and learn to improve their relationships. Often, clients are dealing with anger, fear, loss of trust, or sense of betrayal in their relationship. EFT has also been proven effective for couples who are having trouble coping with their own illness or that of a child. In addition to helping the distressed relationship, EFT can also help reduce individual symptoms of trauma, anxiety and depression.

Research examining outcomes for couples who have participated in emotionally focused therapy shows the therapy decreases distress within relationships and partners interact in more successful ways. Follow-up studies conducted with those who participated in emotionally focused therapy showed the positive effects of the treatment continued for years after the therapy concluded.

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