Human emotions are complex and fragile, easily bruised but difficult to heal. Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg founded a new therapy that focuses on re-establishing loving emotional connections between couples by overcoming negative cycles of dispute.
Johnson and Green based their Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) on the foundation that all people crave emotional bonds with others. They crave attachment and connection that brings truth to the phrase “my other half.” They assert that relationship problems stem from some emotional disconnection in the couple that then leads to cycles of negative comments wielded to protect themselves from more emotional pain.
Clinical psychologist, Dr. Lisa Blum, agrees with the research that EFT is highly effective. Out of ten couples who engaged in EFT, seven were able to greatly improve their relationships and keep them strong.
What Does it Mean to Be Emotionally Connected
Being emotionally connected doesn’t mean always being in agreement and avoiding hurt feelings. It means that the hurt can be overcome by communication, trust, courage, knowledge, and sensitivity.
When one half of the couple feels sad, angry, or neglected by something that their other half did, the injured individual can analyze, accept, and then interpret their real feelings to their partner. It is easy for discussions to escalate into arguments when partners simply react defensively. Couples need the following to re-build their emotional connection:
- Communication: Couples need to be open to expressing their emotions and listening carefully to the emotional responses of their partner.
- Courage & Trust: Couples must be able to discuss their hurt emotions and feelings of disconnection or neglect without fear or guilt.
- Sensitivity: Couples must be able to discuss their hurt without becoming defensive and lashing out at their partner. EFT has failed when partners cannot get out of the negative cycle of comments directed at their partner.
- Knowledge: Couples need to determine the root cause of the emotional detachment.
Moving in Step With One Another
EFT can help couples find from where their emotional detachment stems. Blum and colleague, Dr. Silvina Irwin, lead workshops for couples who need to re-establish their connection. They hope to give couples a new language in how to speak of their feelings to one another.
While both male and female Americans like to appear independent and emotionally invincible, Blum says that there is a need for couples to have strong emotional connections in their relationship that help bind them as one. Depending on another person and needing a connection with them is not a weakness. It is the natural human instinct for attachment.
Dr. Johnson’s book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, suggests that couples analyze the steps they take in conversation. It is like an emotional dance. Partners mention something they did that caused friction between their partner and then what it caused their partner to do. Couples talk through these cause and effects to determine the real problems. It helps them see a cycle of negativity that is breeding and helps them change their language to one of sensitivity and understanding.
A New Tool for Clinicians
Clinicians are undergoing training, themselves, in order to deliver this therapy to their patients. Hands-on, interactive training is helping clinicians become better suited to provide emotional therapy for couples. Clinicians’ age, gender, and education did not change outcomes in their training. While women are usually noted as being more empathetic and intuitive than men, male clinicians completed training just as successfully as female clinicians, proving that either male or female doctors would be successful in helping couples find and discuss their deepest emotions.