Lukin Center Blog

The Nine Steps of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples

Posted by Dr. Konstantin Lukin on March 1, 2017
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Here’s an example of the kind of relationship problem often seen in couples therapy, and how an emerging treatment might be the perfect solution.


couples therapy at the lukin center new jersey EFT.jpg


A middle-aged couple comes in for treatment because they’re constantly fighting and not having sex. The wife also recently had an extramarital affair. Communication seems to have broken down and they are eager for some kind of solution.


Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an increasingly popular and evidenced-backed option to successfully treat couples with these kinds of issues. Treatment usually consists of a short term engagement of between ten and twenty sessions. Research has shown that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and up to 90% show significant improvements.


The nine steps to EFT for couples:


  1. Ascertain the problems that brought the couple for treatment and the patterns that emerge when discussing these issues
  2. Identify the negative interaction cycle(s)
  3. Explore each partner’s feelings related to that interaction cycle
  4. Rephrase the problems in terms of each partner’s emotional experience
  5. Help both partners better understand their own wants and needs as individuals
  6. Encourage both partners to accept the other’s emotional experience
  7. Help both partners express their wants and needs appropriately and facilitate a more positive interaction cycle
  8. Come up with new solutions to the problems that brought the couple for treatment
  9. Consolidate the new interaction cycle


How treatment may help

The therapist will help the couple identify the negative interaction cycle that they have played out. In this case, the husband would reach out to the wife in some way and, when she did not react the way he wanted, he would become critical and aggressive, and she would withdraw.


Under the therapist’s guidance, they each recognize that the husband felt rejected and helpless, and the wife felt afraid and overwhelmed. Each partner explores how these emotional experiences had originally developed and what they are looking for in the relationship, and they are able to express this to each other in a productive way.


With the therapist’s help, they acknowledge where the other partner is coming from and validate their emotional experiences, brainstorming solutions to their problems that satisfy both partners. By recognizing the emotions underlying their partner’s behaviors, they are able to change their own reactions and create a new, healthy interaction style.


Gaining momentum in the psychotherapy world, Emotionally Focused Therapy is being used in a broad range of applications. If you have questions about this approach, or would like to schedule a free consultation in one of our two New Jersey locations, please don't hesitate to reach out. We are happy to answer any and all questions.


Hoboken, NJ location------- (917) 903-1901

Ridgewood, NJ location---- (551) 427-2458


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Topics: Couples Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)