By Jennifer Carlin
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are uniquely trained to diagnose and provide therapy/treatment to individuals, couples, and families. A significant portion of this training is working with the complexities of systems (more than one person in the room) and relationships. While many therapists will advertise that they provide couple/family therapy, they are often not trained or competent to the extent that an LMFT would be. Given the importance of relationships in our lives, especially those closest to us in our families, it is critical to be educated about what the evidence tells us about how to best help couples and families heal and not dissolve into divorce, separation, etc. where it can be avoided.
Within the couple/family approaches that have been studied in the research literature, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has been shown to be the most effective approach, considering long-term benefits and relapse rates. Communication and problem-solving (behavioral therapies) have strong evidence of success while in treatment, but poor outcomes when couples are measured 3, 6, and 12 months later. The EFT approach is a validating, non-blaming and empowering approach to therapy, particularly for men who often feel blamed and “beat up” in therapy offices. EFT was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, a therapist/researcher who based this approach on 50 years of research, focusing on relational bonding.
The goal of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is to create and maintain a powerful and lifelong secure connection within a relationship. Within each Emotionally Focused Therapeutic Session, the therapist will guide and support clients to have a deeper connection and relate in ways that promote healthy, safe attachment and bonding. Using a non-judgmental and supportive approach, EFT therapists create emotional safety for both partners that allows emotional and psychological barriers to be brought down. A main goal/focus of this approach is to identify the couple’s negative patterns and dance around unhealthy attachment/security and to gently direct them to a new way of relating to each other that fosters trust, safety, and an ability to meet each other’s needs in the relationship. Throughout the process of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the couple is able to create, restructure and learn to maintain a true partnership and connection. The goal is to move couples/families away from the therapist office with a connection/bond that will sustain them long-term.