What is Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT)?
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) is a collaborative and empathically responsive approach in which you are guided by your therapist in accessing and working with your emotional experience in a new way that ultimately helps you to feel better and more connected to yourself. EFT helps you to identify, understand, use and manage emotions in healthy ways to relieve distress, communicate effectively, connect with others, and overcome challenges in life. It will also help you to resolve painful feelings and change problematic, repetitive (maladaptive) emotional states such as depression, anxiety, shame, and helplessness.
How does EFT work?
EFT recognizes the adaptive function of emotion and emphasizes the importance of attending to emotional experience as a source of meaning, direction, and growth. Emotions act as a signal, highlighting what is important to us and letting us know if something is wrong or needs attention and healing. They also provide information about what we need, motivate us to take action, and guide our communication and behaviours. To function well, we need to be aware of how we feel and be able to make use of our emotions in a productive way. However, if we have learned to distrust, ignore, fear, or avoid our emotions we are cut off from important information about ourselves which makes it difficult to respond adaptively. Early experiences of repeated invalidation, abuse, or trauma may also result in recurring, problematic emotions that need to be changed. Emotion focused therapists guide you to make healthy contact with experiences (feelings, memories, thoughts, bodily responses) in a way that facilitates the transformation of unhealthy emotional states, helps you access adaptive internal resources, and allows you to live more in the present.
What happens in EFT?
Emotion focused therapists work directly with emotion to help you make sense of your emotions, to tolerate and manage them, and to use them to meet your needs and goals. You will be helped to actively experience your emotions in the safety of the therapy session so that rather than avoiding or controlling your feelings, you learn to use them as a guide to meet important needs and goals, including connecting with others in a healthy way. In this process you will learn how to develop the right distance from emotions so you don’t get “caught up” in your emotional response or overwhelmed or alternately don’t push away or hide emotional experience to the extent that you cannot make use of it. In addition to learning emotional skills, you will also be helped to access and draw on alternate healthy emotions and resilient parts of yourself to change unhealthy, maladaptive emotional states such as a sense of oneself as weak, bad, unlovable, or inadequate, or chronic states of depression, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, or shame.
Is EFT effective?
Emotion Focused Therapy is an empirically supported treatment for depression that was developed based on an extensive program of research investigating how people change in therapy. It was designed to be brief (16-20 sessions) but may be longer depending on your issues and goals. EFT has been proven effective for individuals suffering from depression, trauma (particularly related to childhood abuse or neglect), couples conflict/distress, and interpersonal problems, including unresolved feelings toward past significant others and complicated grief. EFT has been found to be as effective in the short term treatment of depression as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and to be highly effective in preventing relapse.
Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT-C)
Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT-C) is a brief evidence-based couples therapy based in attachment and emotion theories. EFT-C focuses on drawing awareness to our emotional responses and underlying attachment and identity needs, helping us to communicate these in more effective ways, and promoting self- and other-soothing to help initiate new cycles of interaction that build a strong bond in the relationship.