Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT)
Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is substantially based on the principles of attachment theory and is an approach used with individuals, couples and more recently with families. Attachment theory assumes that all humans innately yearn for trust and security, or attachment. It argues that children have needs for attachment with at least one parent, and adults have these needs with a romantic partner. So, according to attachment theory, an individual’s yearning for a secure attachment to a significant partner is very legitimate. Therefore, EFT assumes that the negative behaviours that occur between partners in conflict are justifiable and valid responses to frustration that occurs from the need for a secure attachment.
If an individual is not able to get an attachment figure to respond to them and their needs, then he or she will engage in whatever behaviours are necessary to solicit a response (even negative ones) – this leads to the secure attachment being lost. If this “attachment injury” is not resolved then the couple may move towards a distressed state that is characterised by a negative fight cycle – where one partner pursues while the other withdraws. The goal with emotion-focussed therapy is to aid couples to regain the secure attachment.
There are three stages of change events in EFT: stage 1 focuses on de-escalation; stage 2 deals with restructuring the bond; and stage 3 aims for consolidation. In stage 1, the focus is on identifying negative cycles and attachment issues, access underlying attachment emotions, and frame the problem cycle and attachment needs or fears. In stage 2, implicit needs, fears, and thoughts of the self are accessed, and acceptance of others is promoted. In stage 3, new cycles are demonstrated through enactments, new stories are produced of the problems and how to repair them, and new solutions are developed to pragmatic issues.