NCE – Emotionally Focused Family Therapy

​Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an approach based on insights from attachment theory and focuses on how personal inter-relational patterns regulate our emotions and interactions with others (Metcalf, 2011). Understanding the preconceived notions one holds in relation to others can illuminate why repetitive relationship patterns keep occurring. The EFT therapist acts as a consultant whose creates a collaborate alliance with couples in order to create a secure relationships (Metcalf, 2011). According to EFT, problems occur when interactional patterns are based on unresolved negative experiences from our past. Metcalf, (2011), notes that these patterns can often develop into an endless feedback loop in relationship. For change to happen, families and couples need to restructure their interactional patterns. This requires a safe and trusting environment in which one everyone can begin understanding the nature of current interactional patterns.

Goals of Theory…

This theory is based on the work of Bowlby who examined childhood attachments and emotional issues with loss of a primary caregiver’s nurturing presence.  As a result of our early attachment experiences, we develop patterns of interaction throughout our lives.  It’s goals are to help client explore their feelings of hurt/longing etc to see how they play out in relationships. The ultimate goal is to help clients develop secure attachments.  The real focus is the inner psychological world of each partners through their interactions.

  1. Therapist is a consultant collaborating with couples.
  2. Emotions are the key element in relationships
  3. Problems occur when interaction patterns based on negative emotions from past.
  4. Change occurs when new emotional experiences are present in relationships.

Three Main tasks…

Metcalf, 2011, p. 344

How Change Happens –

Change happens when the family is able to restructure their interactions so that affiliation and autonomy are both accepted & nurtured in the relationship,,,Focusing on the interaction processes instead of the content of discussion, allows the therapist to work on the patterns that support problems and change them…Change is promoted by altering everyone’s the awareness of what is being communicated and what is needed…..(Metcalf, 2011, p. 345)

One Concept: De-Escalation

Metcalf (2011) briefly mentions the concept of de-escalation as an essential task for EFT therapists. It involves the creation of a safe environment in which everyone is able to openly explore his or her thoughts and feelings. This de-escalation process involves four steps. In the first several steps, conflicts and negative interaction cycles are discussed and identified (Metcalf, 2011). The third step involves addressing the unacknowledged emotions, which underlie these interactional patterns (Metcalf, 2011). With this information in mind, each individual attachment-related needs can be discussed. In the final step, the therapist can assist families and couples in developing a more holistic understanding of the ongoing cycle of conflict (Metcalf, 2011).

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths of EFT include its interventional techniques, which appear to be based on empathy and respect. I also appreciated that the EFT therapist holds a collaborative role, which respects the client’s experiences. This would naturally result in a goals that are based on the client’s needs and desires, not just the therapist’s clinical impression. As for the weaknesses, I can’t really see anything about EFT that I disliked. At the same time, I remember vaguely reading somewhere in this class that all empirically sound theoretical perspectives utilize pragmatic solutions-based interventions. In other words, insight-based interventions are inadequate when utilized alone. Having said this, I’m not too familiar with this theory so I could be wrong.


Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New York: Springer Publishing Company

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