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EFT is a therapeutic approach to couples’ therapy that was developed using adult attachment and bonding theories.

EFT builds on the idea that adult relationships are complex, and it gives therapists a guide to help their clients in couples therapy. EFT seeks to help the couple bond and become a secure base for each other (ICEEFT, 2019). 


EFT is a short-term and structured therapeutic approach, which teaches couples how to change negative communication patterns so they can feel closer and more connected to each other. The emerging research on neuroscience validates the importance of healthy attachments. When there is a breakdown in our relationships, our brains interpret this as danger, which leads to a fight-or-flight response (Jones, 2006). EFT seeks to help a couple bond and become a secure base for each other (ICEEFT, 2019).

"I’m most excited about taking all the stuff we’ve discovered with couples and families, and systematically applying it to individuals. I’m most interested in taking EFT and getting it out there as an individual treatment for depression and anxiety." Dr. Sue Johnson (Nash, 2019).

EFT Stages and Steps are outlined below:

Stage One: Cycle De-escalation


Step 1: Identify key issues of concern. 

Step 2: Identify ways negative patterns of interaction that increase conflict.

Step 3: The therapist assists in the identification of unacknowledged fears and negative emotions related to attachment underlying the patterns of negative interactions. 

Step 4: The therapist reframes key issues for the couple in terms of negative patterns of interaction, underlying emotions and fears, and each individual’s attachment needs.


Stage Two: Changing Interaction Patterns


Step 5: Individuals are assisted in voicing both their attachment needs and deep emotions. 

Step 6: Partners are coached in ways to express acceptance and compassion for a partner's attachment needs and deep emotions.

Step 7: Partners are coached in the expression of attachment needs and emotions while also learning ways to discuss those issues likely to cause conflict. 


Stage Three: Consolidation and Integration


Step 8: The therapist coaches the couple in the use of new communication styles to talk about old problems and develop new solutions.

Step 9: The couple learns ways to use skills practiced in therapy outside of session and develops a plan to make new interaction patterns a consistent part of life after therapy (Johnson, 2008).

Dr. Sue Johnson Interview

Dr. Sue Johnson is a clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, popular presenter and speaker, and a leading innovator in the field of couple’s therapy and adult attachment. Dr. Johnson is the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy, which is backed by over 30 years of peer-reviewed clinical research. Dr. Johnson is founding Director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) and Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California, as well as Professor Emeritus, Clinical Psychology, at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Dr. Johnson is the author of many books, including Hold Me TightLove Sense, and Created for Connection.


Click the links below to find out more about EFT.

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