Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

“The most functional way to regulate difficult emotions in love relationships is to share them.”

(Dr. Sue Johnson, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships)

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) draws on humanistic and systemic principles to help create a more secure attachment bond in a relationship. This approach is a highly researched, effective and evidence-based treatment which focuses on the emotional bond between partners, presuming that most relational problems arise from a disruption of this bond. Therapy is designed to create new cycles of bonding interactions in the couple and replace negative cycles such as pursue-withdraw or criticise-defend. These new positive cycles then become self-reinforcing and create permanent change. 

There are three stages within Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. The first stage is a de-escalation stage where we are looking at the cycle of negative interactions you and your partner get trapped and stuck in, focusing on the emotional realities that underlie this cycle. The main focus within this phase of the work is to change those negative patterns and create safety in your relationship. The second stage moves beyond de-escalation and helps a couple to create new patterns of interaction that act as an antidote to that negative cycle. Here we are not just creating new interactions between the couple, but specifically creating a more secure bond. The last stage of the therapy is consolidation of the changes the couple have made and explore how they have repaired their relationship.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is a brief short-term therapy that typically takes between 8 to 20 sessions to move a couple through these three stages. As a rule of thumb, the first stage, de-escalation, generally requires 75% of the total number of sessions for a couple to de-escalate their emotional distress when triggered and reliably create emotional safety outside of the therapy office. Once that occurs, the second stage, deeply connecting/bonding, utilises all but a few of the remaining sessions set aside for the final stage – consolidating gains. A variety of confounding variables can increase the number of sessions needed.

For more information, please see the following video by Dr. Sue Johnson, the Founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples:


Dr Lombard EMDR