What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2019
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Emotionally focused therapy is designed primarily for the purpose of couples counseling. This therapeutic approach is meant to get under the surface so that couples can understand exactly what is causing their relationships to go south. Once this understanding is achieved, the therapist then helps the patients move towards a stronger bond. Emotionally focused therapy is generally well-known for having a much higher success rate in the field than other methods of relationship therapy.

At the center of emotionally focused therapy is a well-regarded scientific model of what attachment is. The basic idea is that people need to feel connected to somebody else throughout their lives. When people are children, that connection might be with siblings or parents, and as they get older, it will usually include a connection to a romantic partner. The reasons for that attachment are based on certain emotional needs that can only be fulfilled by someone else. Emotionally focused therapy takes advantage of this basic scientific understanding of attachment and attempts to leverage it during therapy sessions.

As the name would generally suggest, emotionally focused therapy is very concerned with how people feel inside. The therapists are interested in how emotions are driving the patients in their behavior. For example, the therapist generally wants to understand how people feel when they do things that are harming their relationships along with what caused those feelings in the first place.


This understanding of emotions allows the therapist to look for patterns that are harming the relationship. For example, if the husband is jealous, and that is making the wife so angry that she does something negative, the therapist will determine exactly how each patient is contributing to the problem. The therapist can then help the patients learn to deal with the behaviors that are hurting their relationship. Identifying and avoiding these so-called "trigger" behaviors is a very important part of emotionally focused therapy.

The therapist also needs to understand the original feelings and dependence mechanisms that helped the patients form a love bond in the first place. He will want to know what each person appreciated and needed in the other person, and how those things have deteriorated. This can help guide the couple back to a more loving and positive relationship.

Couples who try this type of therapy usually get good results, and they often get those results in just a few months. Some studies have shown that as many as 90 percent of all couples get some kind of positive outcome from this therapy. That is generally considered a very high rate of success compared to many forms of therapy.



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