What is Emotion Focused Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an evidenced-based approach to couples counselling that is practiced by thousands of trained therapists across the world.   It is an approach that is proven to be highly effective with couples in distress, and it can also be used with individuals and families. 

Extensive research has been completed in the last 35 years to predict outcome of an EFT process with couples.  The data concludes that 70-75% of couples who go through EFT with a trained EFT therapist recover from distress and are happy in their relationship (and this effect lasts over time).    And 90% of couples report SIGNIFICANT improvement in their relationship even if not all of their issues are resolved (Johnson, 2008).

What can I expect in EFT?

The therapist begins by learning about a couples history and the triggers that draw them in to conflict or disconnect.  The Therapist will likely have 1 individual session with each of the partners to be able to really understanding each person’s attachment styles and beliefs about themselves and others- which they carry with them in their adult romantic relationship.   

 Through processing the triggers, the therapist explores the deeper emotions that are below the surface and assists the client(s) to create a new experience with their partner.  With time and practice, the couple learns a new way of communicating and connecting with their partner on a deeper level.

 EFT has the belief that it is normal that couples experience conflict.  The damage happens when the conflicts take a hold of the couple and loops them into a communication pattern that leaves them both feeling hurt, not important, and alone. 

Typically, a couple’s conflicts falls into one (or more) of three cycles that Sue Johnson calls ‘Demon Dialogues’.   These Demon Dialogues take place when one partner is feeling abandoned, rejected, or helpless.   

  • Cycle 1- ‘Find the bad guy’ is when partners mutually attack the other in an effort to regain control from feeling vulnerable and alleviate the hurt from feeling rejected.
  • Cycle 2- ‘The Protest Polka’ is when one partner criticizes and protests the disconnection, and the other partner withdraws to protect themselves and the relationship. 
  • Cycle 3- ‘Flight and Freeze’ is when both partners have lost hope in their connection and withdraw to protect themselves from more pain. 

Click here to watch a video of EFT founder Sue Johnson explaining these three cycles.

There is hope!

The good news is that these ‘demon dialogues’ can be identified and the deeper connection can be regained when both partners come together to regain control of their cycle and take emotional risks together.  It is amazing to witness the impact of couples going through an EFT process and experience that level of connection!

How do I get started?

Emotionally Focused Therapy is a counselling approach that requires specialized training.  When seeking couples therapy, it is a good idea to seek out a therapist who has training in Emotionally Focused Therapy specifically.  Here is a link of trained EFT therapists in New Brunswick, Canada.

EFT Therapists in New Brunswick


Here’s an entertaining interview that Sue Johnson did explaining what happens in these 3 ‘demon dialogues’.