Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has grown into two strands.  It is most commonly used with couples, but the theory has been developed to be used with individuals as well.


Dr. Les Greenberg, the primary developer of EFT for individuals, promotes the counsellor working as an emotion coach for the client.  Emotion coaching integrates the head and the heart by encouraging emotional heightening and reflection upon these emotions.  The counsellor helps identify emotion, differentiate between what the client feels from what others feel, synthesize contradictory emotions, use emotions as information, articulate feelings in words or symbols, use emotion to facilitate thinking, help develop emotional knowledge, and reflect on the emotions that arise.   Essentially, EFT teaches, through experience and discussion, how we can learn from our emotions and learn how to express and use them in healthy ways, rather than try to control them or hide from them.


EFT for couples has been developed by Dr. Sue Johnson.  This approach focuses on the emotional attachment between partners and is rooted in Attachment Theory.  Dr. Johnson posits that individuals are emotionally attached to and dependent on their partner for nurturing, soothing, and protection in the same way that an infant is upon a parent.  The therapy sessions focus on creating and strengthening an emotional bond.  This is done by first identifying a likely negative cycle of interaction occurring in the relationship and the roles each partner are playing in this “dance”.   This negative cycle or dance is an enemy of the relationship that has entered and taken over.  The couple must work together to overcome the reoccurring invasion of their enemy.  This is done through the awareness and articulation of the emotional experience of each partner when the couple is being invaded by the negative cycle.  Through the articulation of emotional experience and the expression of needs, the couple can begin working together as a team, knowing what each other and themselves need to feel nurtured, soothed, and protected and therefore secure in the relationship.

Based on years of research, Dr. Sue Johnson explains what a healthy relationship is: