Sue Johnson on Emotionally Focused Therapy
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Foundations of EFT
|Victor Yalom:||Sue, it's great to be with you today. We might as well start with the basics. Can you just say a bit about what is emotionally focused therapy or EFT?|
|Sue Johnson:||EFT is an approach that was developed in the '80s to work with couples, that now has a very strong empirical base. It's been tested. There's lots of outcome data. We know that we get results with lots of different kinds of couples. We know how we get results. As its name suggests, it's an approach that focuses very much on how people deal with their emotions and how they send emotional signals to their spouse, and then how this emotion becomes the music of their interactional dance.|
It's an attachment-oriented approach. Attachment is a broad theory of personality and human development that focuses, also, very much on emotion. It's an attachment approach, so it assumes that we all have very deep needs for safe connection and emotional contact, and that when we don't get those needs, we get stuck in very negative interactional patterns; the dance music gets very complicated.
|VY:||Of course, humans are complex creatures. Emotions are an essential component, but we also have cognitions. Why do you focus on emotions?|
|SJ:||We focused on emotion, in some ways, because they were pretty much left out of interventions, particularly systemic interventions—interventions that looked at relationships. Emotions were really considered the enemy. They were the things that people had difficulty with. Particularly, anger and conflict were considered the enemy. So there was a lot of focus on just teaching people skills to control emotion—to be nicer to each other.|
And what we tried to do is say, "No, focusing on emotion and helping people send key emotional messages to each other that help the other person feel safe is the most important part of a relationship. It's the key part of the attachment bond. And we really need to teach people how to do that." So that's why we focused on emotion.
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Dr. Sue Johnson is one of the originators and the main proponent of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), now one of the best validated couples interventions in North America. She is Director of the Ottawa (Canada) Couple and Family Institute and the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy as well as Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa and Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California.
She has received numerous honors for her work, including the Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Couple and Family Therapy Award from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the Research in Family Therapy Award from the American Family Therapy Academy. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.
She received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of British Columbia in 1984. She is a registered psychologist in the province of Ontario, Canada, and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy and the Journal of Family Psychology. She is a Research Professor in the Marital & Family Therapy Program at Alliant University in San Diego.
Her 2004 book (2nd Ed), The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Creating Connection (Brunner Rouledge) is a foundational text on EFT for couples. She is the senior editor of the 2003 book, Attachment Processes in Couples Therapy (Guilford Press), and the 1994 book, The Heart of the Matter (Guilford Press). She has also written a book on trauma and couples, Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors (2002).
She trains counselors in EFT worldwide and consults to Veterans Affairs, the U.S. and Canadian military and New York City Fire Department. Sue is an Approved Supervisor for the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and is internationally known for her workshops and presentations on practice, theory and research in couple therapy, adult attachment and emotion in psychotherapy. She maintains a private practice and lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband and two children.
To contact Dr. Johnson and learn more about her work, visit her website and The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy.
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2.Learn how to create a safe environment for couples to explore their more vulnerable feelings.
3. Describe how Bowlby’s attachment theory is applicable to adult romantic relationships.
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