What is Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples?

couple doing tango

How we move with our partners creates a very special relationship dance. Sometimes this dance is healthy, with a secure attachment. And other times not so much.  Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples helps partners to hear the music (or emotion) and follow each other’s moves with exquisite attunement promoting a secure bonding with one another.  Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples has a 70-75 % recovery rate and a significant improvement rate of 86- 90%.

I did some training this last week with Dr. Johnson in Tampa, Florida.  EFT is a model used for couples therapy that is backed up by over 25 years of research. This model is a mix of experiential, systemic and attachment theories. I was excited to have the opportunity to do training with this talented  researcher and therapist.


The EFT evidence based interventions are powerful in helping couples to be able to re-establish safe emotional connections. Couples learn how to identify and de-escalate negative circular patterns. This repair is done through bonding, emotionally engaged interactions.

This model of therapy is set up to be done in 8 – 20 sessions. Some circumstances will take a longer course of treatment. But in general this is set up to be a short-term counseling model.

I personally like how this model addresses the core issues for couples and helps them to truly hear each other and address their attachment needs within the relationship. EFT is all about building a strong, safe and loving connection between couples. Dr. Johnson feels “empathic responsiveness” is the essence of EFT.

Below is a 20 minute introduction video presented by Dr. Sue Johnson on Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples.



  • If you want to see a listing of the research studies and summarizes on EFT go to www.iceeft.com.
  • Dr. Sue Johnson’s website is: www:drsuejohnson.com . Her books, dvds, blog, etc are located on this website.
  • Dr. Johnson recommends her book Hold Me Tight for couples to read.

3 Ways To Stay Emotionally Connected

couple biking (2)You want to feel connected. You want to feel like you are being heard and that your loved one is there for you. There are actions that you can incorporate within your relationship to nurture  that emotional connection that you so want.  You can silence the “alarm bells” that ring within your brain’s amygdala when you are feeling distant from your spouse or partner.

In Dr. Sue Johnson’s book, HOLD ME TIGHT – Seven Conversations for a Life Time of Love, she talks about 3 Keys to Emotional Connection that are needed for love to sustain. They are as follows:

A = Accessibility    This is about  you being there for each other. This would be physically and emotionally. It means being willing to be open and share your feelings . You share and listen on a deeper level with one another.

R = Responsiveness     You respond to your partner or spouse’s signals that they need you. When there is a fight or disagreement you make it clear you want to resolve the issue. You are there when your partner or spouse is feeling anxious.  You create a feeling of safety with each other.

E = Engagement    You are emotionally engaged with each other in a positive way. You feel safe enough with each other to talk about anything. You care about each other’s feelings and well-being. There is a sense of connection even when you are not physically with each other.

Dr. Johnson calls this A.R.E. Quoting Johnson, she says you can remember this with the simple phrase, “Are you there, are you with me?”

 Dr. Johnson is a clinical psychologist and researcher and is the founder of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy. I have found her research and work immensely helpful in my work as a therapist. She has 30 years of research under her belt and has been focused and adult love attachments and how to repair breaks in love relationships. Her book HOLD ME TIGHT is intended for the public and is excellent.

I wish you the best in finding ways to be emotionally connected to your loved one.