This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


Emotion-focused Therapy (EFT) for Couples : Enhancing Intimacy and Resolving Conflicts

Are you tired of arguing and fighting with your partner and want a break from it? Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) for couples can help you with it. This therapy taps into the innate power of emotions and potent motivations, such as longing for connection, and helps in developing relationships positively.(1) This article delves deeper into Emotion-focused therapy and its role in enhancing relationship satisfaction and intimacy.

Emotion-focused Therapy for Couples: An Introduction

When we fight or argue with our partners, our arguments can feel quite familiar because they follow a specific pattern. Though the topics of arguments could be different, it is the same cycle.  Emotion-focused Therapy (EFT) helps in identifying this particular pattern and examining that the arguments are based on the result of unmet emotional needs.

Emotion-focused Therapy for couples aids in reducing relationship distress while supporting the attachment or bonding that love relationships offer for a more secure sense of self and also a sense of connection with others.(1)

This therapy primarily focuses on emotions and emotional communication in relationships and is used to improve bonding in couples. It was developed by two doctors, namely Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in the 1980s.

The Three Stages of Emotion-focused Therapy (EFT)

Emotion-focused Therapy (EFT) is a process that included three stages. Let us study these three stages.

First Stage: Cycle De-escalation

The first stage of EFT is “cycle de-escalation” and this stage helps couples to understand how negative interactions between them drive a self-reinforcing cycle of distress. By the end of this initial stage, the couple realizes that the core challenge in their relationship stems from a repetitive cycle of attachment disruptions, prompting them to refocus on addressing this negative pattern.

Second Stage: Restructuring Interactions

The second stage in Emotion-focused Therapy includes “restructuring interactions”. This stage of EFT involves the shaping of new core emotional experiences and restructuring new interactions that lead to a better and more secure connection in the relationship. In this stage, partners are encouraged to share and explore needs with their partner in session, in focused, and structured enactments. Such events generate new constructive and positive cycles of caring, sharing, and fostering secure attachment.

Third Stage: Consolidation

Consolidation is the third stage of emotion-focused therapy and this involves helping couples solve their everyday problems with the use of their more secure and loved bond and improved relationship functioning and creating a story of resilience and impact in their relationship.

When is Emotion-focused Therapy Used?

Sometimes couples want to live peacefully and happily together but are unable to do so. Emotion-focused Therapy is beneficial particularly, in cases when couples arrive at counseling in emotional distress and feel that they need professional help as they feel that their relationship is getting irreparable. Couples might be displaying distrust, fear, anger, or grief in their relationship.

It is also useful for couples and individuals having difficulty expressing their emotions and those who believe that sharing their emotions or feeling is a sign of their weakness. Emotion-focused Therapy is also beneficial for those who have difficulty regulating emotions.

Benefits of Emotion-focused Therapy for Couples

Emotion-focused Therapy has got several benefits for couples. Some of these are listed below.

  1. Better Emotional Functioning

The main aim of emotion-focused therapy for couples is to expand and re-structure their emotional responses. The therapy offers a language for developing healthy relationships. 

  1. Stronger Bonds

Emotion-focused Therapy is based on attachment theory. This theory suggests that attachment between people offers a haven and relaxation and a way to obtain security, comfort, and also a buffer against stress.(2) This aids in developing stronger bonds. 

  1. Improved Interpersonal Understanding

People become more aware of the needs of their partners when they go through emotion-focused therapy. And with this enhanced awareness, they are able and willing to listen and discuss problems from a place of empathy and not from a place of anger or defensiveness.

What Research Says About the Effectiveness of Emotion-focused Therapy?

As a therapeutic model, emotion-focused therapy has multiple strengths. The most important thing about EFT is that it has been supported by extensive research. There is a substantial body of research that outlines the effectiveness of this therapy for couples.

Emotion-focused Therapy (EFT) can be one of the most effective ways for couples to form stronger bonds and also build healthy relationships. Research has shown that emotion-focused therapy can significantly improve interactions between partners and also reduce the stress that people experience in their relationships.(3)

A systematic review from 2019 found that emotion-focused therapy (EFT) was an effective treatment for improving satisfaction in marriages.(4) This recovery is also pretty lasting and stable.

Things to Consider While Undergoing Emotion-focus Therapy

Emotion-focused Therapy involves exploring various negative emotions and patterns that lead to conflicts in relationships.  Thus, it could be quite challenging and the entire procedure might lead to various intense emotions in the couples undergoing the EFT.

Moreover, it is essential that in emotion-focused therapy for couples, both persons should be willing to participate effectively.

Because of insecure attachment or bondage, any perceived distance in close relationships could be interpreted as a danger.(5) Thus, people as adults in their romantic relationships are triggered and go with some unhealthy and insecure patterns to deal with distance. Though it could be hard for a therapist to change this entire interpretation and thought pattern, the goal of emotion-focused therapy is to help couples change such thoughts and patterns and replace them with more helpful and positive ones.

What Does An Emotion-focused Therapy Session Look Like?

Emotion-focused Therapy sessions could be quite different from other forms of therapy. During a session of emotion-focused therapy (EFT), a therapist keenly observes the dynamics and chemistry between the couple and then guides them to coach and direct new and positive ways of interacting. The therapists involved in EFT are active listeners and they play a proactive role in guiding the conversation.

The EFT therapists are empathetic and help couples recognize their emotions, behaviors, and patterns of which they might be unawareand how these actions could be contributing to conflicts in their relationships.

The therapeutic approach of emotion-focused therapy focuses on addressing emotions and interactions within the EFT session rather than focusing on things like homework or worksheets.


Emotional connections and mutual understanding lie at the heart of any relationship. While it’s natural to encounter challenges in maintaining consistently positive emotions, especially in romantic partnerships, it’s crucial to recognize the transformative power of emotions. They not only influence how we perceive our relationships but also act as catalysts for change. Emotion-focused Therapy facilitates such transformative shifts, fortifying relationships and alleviating marital distress, thereby fostering deeper satisfaction and connection.


  1. Johnson, S. M. (2020). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy: Creating connection (3rd ed.). Routledge. How to Do Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: 6 Interventions (positivepsychology.com)
  2. Gabatz RIB, Schwartz E, Milbrath VM, Carvalho HCW, Lange C, Soares MC. Formation and disruption of bonds between caregivers and institutionalized children. Rev Bras Enferm. 2018;71(suppl 6):2650-2658. doi:10.1590/0034-7167-2017-0844
  3. Wiebe SA, Johnson SM. A review of the research in emotionally focused therapy for couples. Fam Process. 2016 Sep;55(3):390-407. doi:10.1111/famp.12229
  4. Beasley CC, Ager R. Emotionally focused couples therapy: A systematic review of its effectiveness over the past 19 years. J Evid Based Soc Work.2019;3:1-16. doi: 10.1080/23761407.2018.1563013
  5. Jones, L. K. Emotionally focused therapy with couples — the social work connection. Social Work Today. 2019;9(3):18.

Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 18, 2023

Recent Posts

Related Posts