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What Is EFT and Is It Effective?


Emotionally Focused Therapy and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) are a set of approaches to therapy for individuals, couples, and families. They incorporate elements of experiential therapy such as gestalt and person-centered approaches, systemic therapy, and attachment theory (Corey, 2013).

These therapies are based on the idea that human emotions are connected to human needs, and working through them can help individuals change distressful emotional states and improve interpersonal relationships (Johnson & Greenberg, 1992). EFT is typically a short-term treatment of 8–20 sessions (Johnson, 2008).

Emotionally Focused Therapy was developed in the 1980s by Canadian psychologist Sue Johnson, who focused on emotions because they are typically left out of interventions, especially those focusing on relationships (Johnson, 2008).

This type of therapy is designed for couples working to develop an understanding of their partner’s and their own emotions. While Emotionally Focused Therapy addresses the needs of couples, Emotion-Focused Therapy was developed by Leslie Greenberg and Robert Elliott to address individual needs (Yalom, 2011).

Johnson and Greenberg (1992) developed the EFT approach by reviewing videos of couple therapy sessions and performing task analysis to identify what elements led to positive change. They took an experiential–systemic approach by viewing problems as a cyclical reinforcement of patterns and interactions between partners.

Emotions are seen both as a within-individual phenomena and as part of an entire system created by the interactions between partners (Johnson, 1998).


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