What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a therapeutic style and structure developed by Dr. Sue Johnson. It is born out of Attachment Theory and over 50 years of research on adult love and bonding. EFT centers around the fact that all humans are innately relational and long for meaningful, intimate, emotional connection. It understands that relationship distress most often occurs when the emotional connection gets interrupted, misunderstood, or withheld.

The therapeutic structure of EFT is specifically designed to help couples (1) recognize and de-escalate the cycle that is fueling the interruption to their connection, (2) build a foundation of experiences where each person feels seen, loved, and understood, and (3) foster the creation, or repair, of a secure bond between them.

EFT has shown high levels of effectiveness in improving relationship satisfaction and reducing distress among couples. Outcome studies show that 90% of couples who do EFT experience meaningful improvement and roughly 73% achieve full recovery¹.

There are several key reasons why EFT is believed to be so effective:

  1. Non-pathologizing: The EFT counselor assumes that any hurtful or disconnecting behavior stems from a deeper and legitimate wound, fear, or longing. When these behaviors happen in the relationship, the counselor helps each person to uncover, clarify, and share those deeper experiences. Instead of mediating arguments or spinning their wheels in the more defensive layers of the conversation, the EFT counselor focuses on repairing and strengthening the emotional bond between partners, addressing the deeper attachment-related needs for security, validation, and support.
  2. Emotion as a Guide: EFT recognizes the significance of emotions in shaping our experience of relationships. Emotions provide valuable information about our needs and desires (the deeper attachment longings). By helping individuals and couples identify, understand, and express their primary emotions, EFT enables them to communicate their needs more effectively and fosters greater emotional responsiveness from their partners.
  3. Restructuring Negative Patterns: EFT helps couples identify and restructure negative interaction patterns that contribute to relationship distress. These patterns often involve cycles of the couple expressing secondary emotions and protective behaviors toward each other such as criticism, defensiveness, or withdrawal. By interrupting these negative cycles and promoting new, positive patterns of communication and connection, EFT helps couples create healthier and more secure relationship dynamics.
  4. Promoting Empathy and Validation: EFT’s process of helping couples express their deeper longings and emotions fosters higher levels of understanding and resonance, which naturally creates more empathy and validation in the relationship. In doing so, couples can better “show up” or “hold” each other's emotional experiences, creating a sense of safety and emotional support. This helps partners feel heard, understood, and cared for, leading to increased trust and intimacy.
  5. Therapeutic Alliance: The therapeutic alliance between the couple and the therapist is crucial in EFT. The therapist provides a safe and non-judgmental space for couples to explore their emotions and vulnerabilities. Through their expertise, guidance, and support, therapists help couples navigate through difficult emotions and conflicts, facilitating the process of emotional bonding and relationship repair.
  6. Empirical Evidence: EFT has accumulated a substantial body of research (https://iceeft.com/eft-research-3) demonstrating its effectiveness. Studies have shown positive outcomes in the areas of relationship satisfaction, relationship distress reduction, and long-term relationship stability. This research support further strengthens the credibility and confidence in EFT as an evidence-based approach to couples therapy.


While EFT is shown to be highly effective, individual results may vary. The success of therapy also depends on factors such as the motivation and commitment of the couple, the specific challenges they face, and the skill and experience of the therapist.

If you have more questions about EFT or want to begin your marriage restoration journey, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

¹Johnson, S., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L. & Schindler, D. (1999). “Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Status & challenges (A meta-analysis).” Journal of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 6, 67-79.

Because every marriage
deserves hope–yours too.

Marriage is the foundation of family and family the foundation of society.
There is no cause more worthy than the restoration of your marriage.

let’s get started

Donate Now