Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy in NYC

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is an evidence-based therapy approach that revolves around strengthening emotional bonds and improving interpersonal dynamics. It has been proven effective for couples, families, and individuals alike.

What is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, commonly referred to as EFT, is a structured approach to therapy for couples in NYC rooted in attachment theory. EFT centers on the premise that emotions are intrinsically connected to human needs and that vulnerability is necessary to establish a secure attachment. In contrast to attachment-based therapy, EFT focuses on the dynamics within existing relationships, helping couples identify and break negative patterns that hinder intimacy and trust.

Core Concepts of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Attachment as a Human Need

Humans have a fundamental need for secure emotional attachments with others. These bonds provide a safe haven—a place for comfort, support, and protection. When we are in conflict with each other, we feel alone, unseen, and unloved which can impact our self-esteem.

Emotional Responses

EFT helps individuals and couples understand their emotional responses to conflict in the relationship and use them constructively to improve communication. Together we will look at why you respond the way you do and teach you new ways to express your relationship needs clearly and more effectively.

Negative Cycles

Many relationship issues arise from repeated negative interaction patterns. EFT works to identify these cycles and change the dance of disconnection. We will do this by uniting the couple against their negative cycle, so that is the enemy rather than each other.

Creating A Secure Bond

The therapy aims to re-establish trust and strengthen emotional bonds, transforming relationships into sources of strength and support. This is done through getting to the core of the disconnection, healing past pain, and understanding relationship expectations that continue to become barriers to intimacy in your relationship.

How is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy practiced?

EFT is often practiced in three stages, each designed to build upon the other, guiding clients from recognizing disruptive patterns to establishing more secure emotional connections. While healing is rarely linear, these stages provide a structured roadmap for therapists and clients to ensure a comprehensive approach is taken to address and resolve relational and emotional challenges.

Stage 1
Stage 1

De-escalation

In this initial stage, therapists assist clients in pinpointing and understanding the negative patterns or cycles in their relationships. Recognizing these cycles are pivotal because it helps clients see the repetitive behaviors and reactions that perpetuate disconnection and conflict.

Stage 2
Stage 2

Restructuring Interactions

In this second stage, the focus shifts from simply recognizing the negative cycles to actively transforming them. Therapists guide clients in delving into the deeper, often vulnerable, emotions that underlie their reactions. By accessing and expressing these deeper feelings, clients can start to break away from defensive behaviors and instead engage in more constructive, bonding interactions. This stage is marked by moments of reconnection and understanding as clients begin to turn toward each other with empathy and compassion.

Stage 3
Stage 3

Consolidation

The final stage is about cementing the positive changes and ensuring they endure. Here, clients integrate their newfound interaction patterns into their daily relationship dynamics. They revisit old issues or conflicts, but now with a fresh perspective and improved communication tools. The therapist supports them in solidifying these new patterns, ensuring that the relationship has grown more resilient and can withstand future challenges without reverting back to previous negative cycles.

Who Benefits from EFT?

Research supports Emotionally Focused Therapy’s effectiveness across a range of relationship dynamics.

Couples Seeking Closer Connection:

  • Relationship Distress: Couples entrenched in repetitive conflict patterns can learn to disrupt these cycles, paving the way for deeper connection and mutual comprehension. When couples endure prolonged periods of feeling misunderstood, it can create fertile ground for confusion, false beliefs, and bitterness to take root. An EFT therapist works much like a skilled navigator, helping couples chart a course to the heart of their issues, rather than merely offering temporary fixes that serve to maintain a superficial calm.
  • Trust Issues: Whether due to infidelity, misunderstandings, or past traumas, EFT can help couples rebuild trust. Often we hear the question “is it too late for therapy?” but it’s never too late. We have worked with couples in all walks of life and what we’ve noticed is that people can repair some of the most painful traumas if both partners are able and willing to witness each other’s pain and take ownership over their part of the cycle.
  • Communication Barriers: Couples struggling to express their feelings or needs find tools and strategies to enhance their communication. For example, while a couple might have a fight that on the surface looks like it is about the dishes or household chores, usually what they are trying to communicate are things that are more fundamental to their sense of self such as “When I speak, do you listen? Do you see me and hear my needs? Am I important to you? Do I matter?” These are the attachment needs that when met lead us to feel alive, loved, and worthy in relationships.

Families Looking to Mend Strains:

  • Parent-Child Conflicts: EFT can help bridge generational gaps, fostering understanding between parents and their children.
  • Sibling Rivalries: By addressing underlying emotional needs, EFT can transform sibling relationships from conflict-ridden to supportive.
  • Blended Families: EFT provides tools for families navigating the complexities of merging households, ensuring everyone feels heard and valued.

Individuals Wanting to Understand Emotional Patterns:

  • Personal Growth: Individuals seeking deeper self-awareness can benefit from EFT’s focus on emotional exploration.
  • Past Relationship Trauma: EFT offers a safe space to process past relational hurts, paving the way for healthier future relationships.
  • Attachment Concerns: Individuals with attachment insecurities can find strategies to foster more secure relationships.

Special Populations:

  • LGBTQ+ Community: EFT is adaptable and has been effectively used to address unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, couples, and a variety of relationship styles.
  • Business or non-romantic dyads: EFT can be effective in supporting any kind of relationship dynamic that requires trust and vulnerability such as business partners, friendships, etc.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: EFT’s universal principles make it effective across diverse cultural backgrounds, helping address relationship dynamics in various cultural contexts.

Understanding EFT with Dr. Sue Johnson

In the video below, Dr. Sue Johnson, one of the pioneering figures behind Emotionally Focused Therapy, delves into the core concepts and transformative power of this therapeutic approach.

Love Sense: from Infant to Adult (Sue Johnson and Ed Tronick)

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Your growth continues beyond the sessions

We encourage clients to practice exercises from our sessions at home and to further their understanding through supplemental reading. Not only will this deepen your grasp of key concepts, but it will also provide additional tools to bolster your progress both within and outside the therapy environment. We frequently suggest specific books and also delve into topics on couples and relationships on our blog. Below are some of the recent articles on relationships written by our expert team of therapists.

How To Identify Needs and Wants In Your Relationship

How To Identify Needs and Wants In Your Relationship

Have you ever wondered what truly makes a relationship work? Through my training and experience as a couples therapist, I've discovered that one of the keys lies in understanding the importance of identifying and fulfilling needs and wants in a relationship. In this...