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Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy

Leslie Greenberg and Susan Johnson from Canada developed Emotionally Focused Therapy in the early 1980’s.  EFT is an experiential therapy with a strong humanistic framework.  Sue Johnson combined EFT with Attachment Theory to develop Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT), which combines skills from experiential therapies, humanistic therapies, and some family systems theories.  EFCT is different to the other family therapy in that couples learn the skills to understand, empathise with, and have compassion for each other’s emotional responses.


EFT and EFCT focus on emotional change, and believe that the only an emotion can change another emotion.  This concept was first enunciated by Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) when he wrote “an emotion can only be controlled or destroyed by another emotion contrary thereto, and with more power for controlling emotion”.  This concept is demonstrated by the work of Susan Johnson and Leslie Greenberg using EFT and EFCT, which achieve the emotional change by re-experiencing and re-processing emotions from the past or the present that may be influencing our lives. 


As Albert Einstein said “Experience is knowledge, everything else is just information”.  Hence, EFCT teaches it is necessary to experience a valid emotional response in order to increase our knowledge of how to empathically respond to our partners and adaptively use emotion in our lives to improve our attachment to our partner.


Psychological research studies have shown EFT to be effective in working with grief and loss, depression, anxiety, stress, and many of the emotionally based impediments to a happier life and happier relationships.

EFCT has been especially successful with relationship counselling and distinguishes itself in pre-marriage, marriage, couple, and family counselling, as well as working through the devastation of a relationship breakdown should this have occurred already.

EFCT incorporates John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, which includes the belief that all humans from the cradle to the grave are seeking a safe, secure, trustworthy relationship to be there to guide, support, and nurture them. Having a safe secure base, will provide each of us with the independence to try new endeavours, explore the world, and take risks, because we know there is someone we can depend on to go back to. Not having a secure safe base, makes us less able to explore the world and less able to take a risk, as we do not have that safe haven to which to retreat.


Recommended viewing is Dr Jim Coan’s TED Talk “Why Do We Hold Hands”, and Dr Sue Johnson has many YouTube clips.

Most couple difficulties can be traced to one or both not feeling safe and secure, and making inappropriate or maladaptive attempts to elicit the reassurance that the other is really there for them.

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy is a scientifically validated process, with many international studies over 30 odd years, verifying its effectiveness.  My work includes pre-marriage counselling, family therapy, couple therapy, relationship counselling, and divorce counselling.

EFT Australia

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