Emotions are at the heart of the relational life of a family. Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) is a model rooted in the science of attachment and emotions. EFFT assesses the negative cycles of communication that commonly occur in families, identifies where the stuck places are, and guides family members toward common ground, understanding, and unity.
Through EFFT family therapy, parents learn how to better attune to their children’s emotional needs and develop tangible skills to establish secure attachments. Children with a secure attachment grow up better able to trust others, cultivate self-confidence, and be resilient to adversity. They are also more responsive to the demands and challenges of family life through the close relationships fostered with caregivers, thereby promoting the family’s overall stability and growth.
In 2004, Sue Johnson first proposed that the application of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) she had initially developed for couples be applied to families. She argued that EFT’s principles—namely, fortifying couples’ relationships and improving bonding—could also be applied to family dynamics. Since then, more research has been conducted and training developed that has adapted the principles of EFT to families.
How Emotionally Focused Family Therapy Works
EFFT is rooted in attachment theory which explains how, as humans, we form and maintain close relationships with each other. The earliest bonds we form, of course, are with our caregivers. Attachment theory posits that how we understand ourselves, others, and the world around us can all be traced back to the quality of these early relationship dynamics. Our attachment may have been positive—nurturing a sense of security and safety within us, or negative—in the absence of safety, we experienced fear and a lack of trust.
Emotion-focused family therapy goes underneath the negative patterns that we may have developed to help us understand our emotional drives that can lead to disconnection, conflict, and a sense of chaos. This awareness helps all members of the family shift perspectives, allowing them to have new and different conversations and cultivate more secure bonds with each other.
Parents learn about their emotional blocks which often leave them feeling confused, uncertain, and overwhelmed as caregivers. Through greater self-awareness and becoming a more aligned "caretaker" team, they become more confident in their roles as parents. During therapeutic sessions, parents will gather behavioral tools that help support their goals as a family while also learning how to support their children through challenging emotions.
EFFT is founded on the deep and unwavering belief in the healing power of families. In the short term, families quickly gain a clearer understanding of the negative cycles that exist and, through the therapeutic journey, begin to shift these very dynamics. These shifts can be felt by all members of the family.
Emotionally Focused Family Therapy has been studied and evaluated in its application with different family structures and circumstances—such as blended families, families with adolescents struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, and/or eating disorders, families of 6–12-year-olds with emotional and behavioral issues, and families with trauma.
Because humans are relational creatures, EFFT approaches everything that affects a family through a relational and systemic lens. No one person is ever blamed or perceived as wrong or “abnormal”. After utilizing Emotionally Focused Family Therapy interventions, all studies found that, regardless of the circumstances, parents felt more competent in their abilities, experienced less self-blame, and felt a greater sense of empowerment in regards to supporting their child(ren). ¹
Through EFFT, parents learn how to be their child's behavioral and emotional coach regardless of age. This helps interrupt unhealthy behaviors resulting from anxiety or depression as well as aid in the transition after stressful life events, such as divorce or diagnosis of a learning disability. Further, parents learn how to help their children identify and manage stress, so their need to cope in an unhealthy way becomes unnecessary.
Our Background In Emotion-Focused Family Therapy
The neuroscience over the past decade is clear—we now know that secure attachment promotes resilience, greater self-esteem, willingness to take risks, and a more positive view of self and others. Our mission is to bring evidence-based therapy to our community so that our clients receive high-quality care.
The therapists at RCC Colorado have each received advanced training in EFT and Emotionally Focused Family Therapy. Further, we believe there is no end point in learning. In that vein, we participate in supervision as well as consultation groups to continue to challenge ourselves and hone our skills to provide the best service to you.