Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

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Emotionally focused couples therapy is a kind of efficient management for unhappy couples. The therapy is scheduled to have 8 to 20 meetings per session. This structural approach dedicated for was firstly developed in 1980s by Les Greenberg and Drs. Sue Johnson. The therapy is based on the scientific research on the attachment bond between love and negative communication pattern.

emotionally focused couples therapy

The functions of the attachment in the relationship can offer a secure sanctuary to escape from the world also as a weapon to acquire security, comfort and safeguard to fight anxiety. The attachment bond is also able to provide a secured foundation which allows people feeling safe when exploring the world and learning new things.

The attachment formation happens since childhood. In childhood, the attachment happens between children and their caretakers (parents). This bond between children and their caretakers lasts until the adulthood period. The unavailability of childhood and adulthood caretakers may result in distress. The theory of attachment has offered therapist focusing on emotional to overcome distress, needs and emotions in partners or couples.

The emotionally focused therapy has been implemented to treat various couples in some university schooling centers, personal practices, diverse civilizing groups, and hospice clinics all over the world. The distressed couples or families involved in this emotionally focused therapy are those who suffer from certain disorders like post-traumatic stress, depression, or severe illnesses.

Therapy Goals

Emotionally focused therapy is generally about the scientific study on adult love especially on how the bonding process between them happens. This therapy is aimed to overcome the distress which occurs during the bonding process between lovers. Therapy approaches can also be implemented to families who are trying the family members reconnect and recover their emotional bond.

For the couples who are looking for effective approaches to recover their love and emotional bonds, these emotional approaches are very useful for them. The therapy can be used to figure out each other emotional feelings and responses. For family, each family member can also find out how the feelings of the important people in their family life.

Basically, the research is to observe the adult attachments. The goal is to find out what happens in the relationship between partners and how these conditions can be used as the guidelines for the therapists. Besides couples, the respondents of this research are also individuals and families. By implementing emotionally focused therapy, more than 70% of the distressed couples are being able to overcome their stress and 90% of them demonstrate vital progress.

The emotionally focused therapist works together with families or couples to help them creating secure environment within the relationship and enduring attachments between the family members or couples. The therapy also tries to strengthen any possible positive attachments. The goal of this emotional therapy is to help couples or families enhance the connection, closeness, and security in cherished relationships.

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Therapy Usage

Couples and families suffer from distress can be benefited from this emotionally focused therapy. They will lean the strategies to develop their relationships. Generally, couples sometimes experience betrayal, loss of trust, fear or anger within their relationships. Emotionally focused therapy can also be implemented for couples who have trouble in dealing with their kids or their personal illnesses. As its goal to overcome the distress in the relationship, it is also aimed to reduce individual’s trauma or depression. This emotionally focused therapy is to make distress love relationship into more positive and healthier relationships.

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Therapy Strengths

Here are some strengths of emotionally focused therapy which can be used as the reference before you decide trying this beneficial therapy to fix your relationship with your couple or family members.

  • It is based on explicit and clear concepts of adult love and marital distress. The concepts are being supported by empirical studies on adult love and marital distress.
  • The therapy is a collaborative approach between clients’ experiences and the systemic structural interferences.
  • Transformation strategies and interferences are being specified.
  • The session covers nine main strategies and 3 transformational events
  • Emotionally focused therapy is based on more than 20 years of empirical studies. The researches on the transformational processes and successful predictors have also been conducted
  • Emotionally focused therapy has been implemented for various emotional problems and also wide ranges of communities
  • The therapy can be used to enlarge and re-arrange emotional responses. It is the major key for the attachment bonding.
  • The therapy can be very beneficial to produce the change in each individual interference position and create new interaction cycle.
  • The therapy can be used to promote more secure bonding atmosphere between couples.


Therapy Expectation

During the therapy sessions, the therapist will observe the relationship patterns between the couples and try to figure out how the relationship bonding in their home. After being identified, the therapist will propose new interactions and conversations which show more honest emotions than before.

To obtain these new emotional states, the therapist will ask you to recognize your recent emotions by helping you discover, identify and cope with these feelings. You will find out how to convey these emotions to connect with your partners or your family members. You will also find out how to listen and understand other’s emotions and find more positive ways to respond to these emotions.

Therapy Strategies

There are nine significant strategies which are being employed in emotionally focused therapy; these nine significant strategies are as follows:

  1. Assess the problems which occur in the relationship and identify the emerging patterns when talking about the couple’s problems. Problem evaluation is considered as the most significant first strategy to help the couples overcome their distressed issues in their love relationship.
  2. Figure out any negative communication phases. Problems which ground any distress or disconnection between couples or family members need to be identified.
  3. Investigate the feeling of each individual regarding the negative communication phases. Find out what each of them feel when dealing with these negative phases to uncover any unidentified or unnoticed problems.
  4. Restate the problems once again. Point out each individual’s emotional feelings. Then, personalize the issues regarding to the couples’ needs and emotions.
  5. Assist the couples to understand more about their personal needs and wants. When each individual has been able to understand their emotions better, they will be able to fit in each personal emotion into couples emotional understandings.
  6. Motivate each individual to acknowledge other’s emotional feelings. Endorse individual’s emotional changes and behaviors.
  7. Facilitate both individuals communicate their needs and wants. Help them with more constructive communication phase. The couples have the tendency to involve in the bonding process or exercise outside the therapy session when they have been able to pass this phase.
  8. Provide beneficial solutions for their emotional problems. Help the couples to appropriately express their feelings and solve every problem they encounter before it becomes accumulated with other unsolved issues.
  9. Reinforce new communication phase. Emotionally forced therapy also needs to be conducted outside the therapy session. New solutions on the communication phase may take hard work and longer time to grow.
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Therapy Practise

Emotionally focused therapy is meant to deal with present problems and its goal is to make positive changes in the relationship emotional bonds. There are three key phases in emotionally focused therapy. Each stage contains several therapy strategies mentioned previously.

  • First stage: to eliminate the negative feelings from the couples’ or family members’ interactions. This stage is also used to assist them identify and understand what is actually going on in their relationships. Couples will learn that the main problems are on the distance and the insecurities lies between them.


  • Second stage: to reorganize the interactions. The therapist help the couples discuss their fears in the relationship by choosing proper ways to express their feeling without hurting each other. The couples are directed to learn discussing and showing their feelings without being afraid to hurt their couples’ feelings. Finally, after few sessions, they can discuss their relationship problems in more honest and reactive behavior.


  • Third stage: last stage is consolidation. The therapist firstly tries to make the couples notice how they can be involved in negative communication patterns. They will be trained on how to change those negative communication patterns. When new positive pattern has been created, the couples will be asked to keep on maintaining this healthy communication pattern.


Emotionally Focused Therapy for Families

This emotionally focused therapy has been developed for family distress. The result of the therapy has shown significant improvements on creating closer bonds between the family members. The main goal of emotionally focused therapy in families is to assess and identify the emotional communication patterns among the family members. Whole members of the families have to take part in this therapy to be trained on how to express their feelings regarding their family conflicts issues. They also need to learn how to accept and show compassion when dealing with other family members’ emotions. Being successful in this therapy, the communications among the family members will be more honest and healthier than before the therapy starts.

The researches have studied the outcomes of the emotionally focused therapy as the starting point of this family therapy. The researchers suggest that when being implemented in the family setting, the perfect time is during the transition period when children becoming adolescence. This emotionally focused therapy for families is also suitable for treating bulimia. From the preliminary studies, it is shown that this kind of therapy is very effective to treat the eating disorder.

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Therapy Effectiveness

Emotionally focused therapy has been through series of experimental studies. The sturdy empirical ground has been made regarding the evidence of interference supports. The experimental studies have been made to identify the differences among couples on how they communicate each other and how the differences in communicating can bring significant impact to relationship success and distress.

The results of the studies show that couples who experience the emotional distress in their relationship have shown positive communication patterns and also the distress can be eliminated. The couples are also able to communicate in more effective and successful patterns. The follow up observation is also being conducted on couples who take part in the emotionally focused therapy. From the follow up observation, it is shown that those who are successful in changing their communication patterns during the therapy sessions are continually maintaining their positive communication patterns for years after the therapy session ends.

Therapy Change Processes

There is an example of distress couple issues. Within the therapy sessions, the husband’s insensitive abandonment changes into helplessness senses closer to the intimidated feeling. The husband has grown the sense of asking for respect from his wife. One thing he does is being more open to his wife about his emotions. Instead of saying “There is no point of taking to you” into “I want to be with you. Please give me another chance. Let me stay with you”

The wife’s anger is changed into the feeling of sadness and fear. She learns how to ask for comfort. She changes her communication patterns from “You don’t care about me” into “I want you to hold me and tell me that everything is alright”

This new communication pattern has been able to make closer bonding between couples and eliminate the negative emotions between them. The negative feelings have been cycled into more positive feelings. When the positive emotions have occurred, the couples need to be encouraged to maintain and keep this new communication pattern. The success of their future relationship ll depends on how they maintain the positive attitude between each other.

The key of the relationship success is on how the couples communicate each other. How they learn to express their emotions in proper ways. A problem which may occur in the relationship also needs to be solved immediately. When problems are not addressed quickly, there is always the possibility that it will influence the relationship atmosphere as each individual may suppress their true feelings regarding the problems.

Do you think this emotionally focused therapy is useful to solve your relationship distress? Have you tried asking your partners to solve your relationship issues using this kind of therapy? You can always give it a shot. Hurry and fix your valuable love relationship now!