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What is Emotionally Focussed Therapy (EFT)?


EFT therapists focus on emotions and explore the unmet needs underlying negative emotions. The link between negative emotions and behaviours is also tracked, which helps individuals and partners to interrupt their negative patterns of interaction.

EFT recognises that we as people are bonding creatures, with an inherent need for healthy connection with significant others. Whilst this can be with romantic partners, it can also be within friendships, children, and family members (any significant relationship really!). You may be experiencing distress in your relationships with others (partners, offspring, family members) or within yourself. Research indicates that highly distressed couples (i.e. those in high conflict) can be helped with EFT if they both want to give their relationship a chance to improve and are willing to engage in the therapeutic process. Relationship distress can impact mental health, and mental health can impact relationships. Individuals with severe mental health problems (such as severe OCD, suicidality or psychosis) will likely benefit from assistance from a GP, psychiatrist or separate psychological support to help them stabilise before or during the process of EFT treatment.


EFT is informed by attachment theory, developed by the British psychiatrist Dr John Bowlby who drew attention to the inborn need in all of us to seek contact with other humans. This applies particularly in times of distress, that is, when we are lonely, frightened, sick or sad. Being able to believe that our needs will be met builds emotional security. When our needs are adequately responded to as infants and children, we are able to develop a secure base from which we can explore our potential and safe haven. As adults, this need does not go away – conversely, we hope to find this in our adult relationships (platonic or romantic).


High levels of distress and conflict in our close relationships can create negative emotions within ourselves; which in turn can create negative interactions between ourselves and those closest to us. This can then create an insecure attachment bond (see my previous blogs on attachment styles). When we enter into negative interaction styles with those around us, we enter into a cycle of mutual triggering and reacting, resulting in a seemingly endless loop of distress. EFT supports us to identify this cycle, and ultimately restructure it to make it more workable for ourselves (if presenting individually), or for the relationship (if presenting as a couple).


EFT is adapted to many different settings, to meet the needs of the different relationships we experience: the relationship with our families; with our partners; and with ourselves.

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT-C) supports partners to interrupt negative interactional cycles in their intimate relationship, which creates safety to deepen awareness and expression of primary emotions and needs. The goal is for couples to establish deeper and more secure connections.

  • Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy (EFIT) works with individuals (on issues such as anxiety, depression, past trauma or low self-esteem) to develop healthy emotional processing and expression, and better mental health. Clients are supported to learn to trust their own experience, to accept their own feelings and to communicate clearly with their important others in ways that build more effective relationships.

  • Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) aim to identify and change the patterns of distance or enduring conflict that typically block security and closeness in family relationships. Family members are supported to identify and express their deeper emotions and needs, thereby promoting healthy emotional connection amongst members. Parents are supported to respond to the emotional needs and developmental tasks of their children across the life span, assisting them to build resilience.

If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to admin@youmatterpsychologists.com.au and we will answer any questions you may have.

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