Emotionally Focused Therapy Could Save Your Relationship — What It Is And What It's Not

Dr. Sue Johnson says you get to the heart of the problems fast with EFT.

Last updated on Sep 26, 2023

A couple fighting next to the same couple happy together Eugenia Nikolova via Canva, Vadym Pastukh from Getty Images

Some say EFT stands for extremely funny therapy, but actually, it stands for Emotionally Focused Therapy — a short-term approach (only 8 to 20 sessions with a therapist) that gets great results in solving problems in your relationship.

EFT started in the 1980s and developed alongside the new science of love and bonding. The EFT therapist uses this science as a guide in every session so he or she knows how to get to the heart of the problem fast.


In EFT, we don't teach communication skills or focus on how your family history has impacted your relationship. Instead, we help you really see the dance you get into with each other and the emotional music that plays and keeps you stuck in conflict.

We help you make sense of your powerful emotions and your relationship needs, and talk about these things in a safe way.

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No one has to be the bad guy. All relationships reach sticky points.

We also help you know that it's OK to have relationship needs. Often we don't feel entitled to our needs or can't quite articulate them in a way that our partner can hear — EFT helps with that.


There are three stages to the EFT process:

  1. In the first stage, you learn to step out of painful patterns so that you can both feel safe again.
  2. In the second stage, you learn how to reach for your partner in a way that helps them respond and come closer. We can all learn to make sense of our feelings and express them in a way that pulls our partner towards us. At this point, we also help people heal wounds such as affairs. Our research shows that EFT is successful in helping couples struggling with these kinds of injuries move into forgiveness and renewed trust.
  3. The third stage focuses on consolidating your gains so that you can continue to handle differences well and find your way. Here, we ensure that you don't just have a satisfying relationship, but a truly loving bond.

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We work with all kinds of couples in EFT, including those who struggle with problems other than relationship distress, such as depression or problems with anxiety.

If there has been violence in the relationship, we have to do a thorough assessment to make sure that both partners will feel safe in our sessions and able to openly explore their relationship issues.


In the last 15 years, we really have discovered the rhymes and reasons of romantic love. And now that we understand it, we can shape it.

Love relationships do not have to be hit-and-miss or a matter of luck anymore. We all need a loving connection, and more and more of us are learning how to make that happen.

You can read about the new science of love and the way we understand relationships in Hold Me Tight (2008) and Love Sense and you can find an EFT therapist near you on the EFT website, where therapists are listed by area and their level of EFT training.

In many cities, there are EFT centers where there are many therapists. Some therapists now also do video sessions to reach couples in more remote areas.


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Dr. Sue Johnson is the Director of the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. She is the author of multiple best-selling books, including Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.