Your early bonds and ability to regulate emotions can affect adult relationships. EFT may be an effective way to work through this.

Whether it’s a romantic partnership or a fun friendship, relationships can be an important aspect of your adult life.

Often, the dynamics of these adult bonds are established based on your early experiences. In other words, how you experienced interpersonal relationships during your first few years of life has an impact on how you experience them now.

If you currently tend to feel anxious or insecure in your relationships, this may translate into specific behavioral patterns. These behaviors, in turn, may further impact your connection with loved ones.

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) can help you identify those relationship patterns that may be causing you friction, so that you can develop skills to manage them.

Emotionally focused therapy is a humanistic approach to psychotherapy that centers around relationships and attachment styles.

Originally developed during the 1980s, EFT focuses on working on meaningful connections in your life and helping you identify behaviors and thoughts that may be impacting those bonds.

Initially intended as a form of therapy for couples, EFT is now used to help individuals and families, in addition to intimate partner relationships.

EFT’s goal is to help you work on your emotions and ability to emotionally regulate as a way to improve your personal relationships. This is based on attachment theory.

Attachment theory proposes that the bond you established with your primary caregivers as a baby impacts how you interact and bond with others as an adult.

But this attachment style you developed from your early experiences can change. Working on regulating your reactions to intense emotions is one way to do so. In that case, you could go from insecure to secure attachments, for example.

An insecure attachment style in relationships may lead you to:

  • avoid emotional intimacy
  • find expressing your emotions unpleasant
  • distrust others
  • become easily jealous
  • constantly fear abandonment
  • behave in codependent ways

On the other hand, a secure attachment style may mean you:

  • trust others and yourself in relationships
  • confront and resolve conflict well
  • openly express how you feel
  • pause before you react when experiencing intense emotions

EFT could help you move from insecure attachments to more secure ones.

During therapy, you may be asked to confront uncomfortable aspects of your relationship. This can result in emotionally charged situations and conversations.

But if you or your partner aren’t completely open to the EFT experience, it may not be fully effective.

EFT sessions can be intense as you become aware of some of your patterns of behavior and thoughts. You may not realize what drives some of your behaviors in your relationships. These realizations and deep emotional admissions can be challenging to take in. However, certified professionals are prepared to guide you through the process so you can move forward.

To help minimize any stress related to the experience, EFT sessions are clearly structured and created to slowly introduce you to the process through 3 stages and 9 steps.

The stages and steps of emotionally focused therapy include:

Stage 1: De-escalation

Steps 1 through 4:

1. identifying areas of concern in your relationships
2. looking at unwanted behavioral patterns linked to your areas of concern
3. exploring which insecurities are linked to those unwanted behavioral patterns
4. re-assessing key areas of concern based on what your exploration reveals

Stage 2: Modifying interactions

Steps 5 through 7:

5. voicing your emotional needs and deep emotions
6. learning to accept and show compassion for the other person’s feelings and needs
7. learning to openly communicate needs without causing friction or conflict

Stage 3: Consolidation

Steps 8 through 9:

8. developing new communication styles
9. practicing what you’ve learned in day-to-day life

EFT was developed as a form of couple’s therapy but has branched off into use for individuals only and families, as well.

Couple’s EFT

EFT as couple’s therapy helps partners evaluate and reassess interactions.

You can learn to identify behaviors and emotions in yourself and the other person that may be impacting relationship integrity.

Couples can develop important communication and behavior modification skills that may improve their bond and sense of security.

Family EFT

EFT in a family setting focuses on the identification of behaviors and interactions that impact the family dynamic.

Family EFT looks at relationships from a caregiving standpoint, examining how parental behaviors impact children, how siblings affect one another, and how one parent influences the other parent.

All of these behaviors are then looked at individually and within the family unit as a whole.

Individual EFT

EFT isn’t dependent on multi-person involvement. You may also benefit from EFT as an individual if you want to develop skills to develop a more secure attachment style.

EFT on an individual level can help you identify your undesired behavioral patterns. It can also help you understand the root of your attachment needs and how to communicate better with others.

Emotionally focused therapy is considered a short-term treatment.

It typically extends between 8 and 20 sessions, depending on the progress made by those involved.

Most of the time is spent on stage 1, the de-escalation stage. How quickly you progress through this stage can depend on many factors, including the root cause of your current attachment style and how prepared you are to face your emotions.

EFT stands for emotionally focused therapy. This is an evidence-based, 9-step therapeutic process that can help you build stronger relationships through behavior modification, emotional regulation, and improved communication skills.

Whether you’re a couple, individual, or family looking to build stronger relationship bonds, EFT may be able to help.

If you’d like to learn more about EFT, or if you would like to speak with a professional EFT therapist, you can visit The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT).

You can also view this informational video on EFT, hosted by the Society of Clinical Psychology.