What is EFT Couples Counseling?

Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC

Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC

Sam is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Counselor in San Antonio. He specializes in working with couples to recover from disconnection caused by trauma or addiction.

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The relationship between two people is a complex web of emotions that can either bring great joy or intense pain.

There are times when we feel deeply connected, and other times when we feel like we are on opposite sides of the spectrum. When communication breaks down, it can leave us feeling isolated, frustrated, and disconnected.

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is a form of couples counseling that helps to recognize and manage emotions, which is essential for building and maintaining a healthy relationship. In this article, we will explore what Emotion Focused Therapy is, how it works, and how it can help couples strengthen their relationship.

What is Emotion-Focused Therapy?

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), created by Dr. Les Greenberg and Dr. Sue Johnson, is a form of science-based psychotherapy designed for couples looking to improve their emotional connection and find greater fulfillment in their relationship.

EFT focuses on empathy and understanding the emotional needs of both partners, shifting the focus from blame and criticism to deeper communication.

Emotion-Focused Therapy starts with an assessment of the couple’s relationship, individual attachment styles, and their unique emotional experiences.

The therapist works with the couple to identify negative communication patterns and explore how their emotions can be used to enhance their connection. The therapist invites the couple to engage in exercises to help them manage their emotions more effectively, communicate better, and build deeper trust.

For example, you may be encouraged to develop an emotional vocabulary, share gratitude and appreciation, and embrace vulnerability.

Emotion-Focused-Therapy-for-couples- san-antonio

How does Emotion-Focused Therapy work?

The ultimate goal of EFT in couples counseling is to create a deeper and more meaningful connection between partners by focusing on underlying emotions and attachment needs.

Emotion is the foundation of the way we relate to others, and by understanding and expressing these emotions people can deepen their understanding and connection with each other.

In EFT sessions, couples learn to recognize their own emotional states and communicate these emotions in a way that can be understood by their partner. By creating a shared language around feelings, couples counseling can help partners build a stronger and more loving relationship.

EFT has three stages: De-escalation, Restructuring, and Consolidation, each with its specific treatment goals.



In De-escalation, the therapist works to help the couple reduce emotional intensity and negative interactions.

The central objective of EFT is to help couples re-establish their emotional bond and promote attachment. A safe and supportive environment is established, and the therapist works with the couple to identify the negative patterns that get in the way of their relationship.

This stage is critical because it sets the groundwork for the rest of the therapy.


The second stage is restructuring, where the therapist uses the newly identified negative patterns (Demon Dialogues) to initiate a positive emotional transformation within the couple.

Demon Dialogues are typical ways that couples get caught up in arguments or conflicts. Common ones are “The Protest Polka” where a partner becomes critical and the other becomes defensive.

During Restructuring, the couples can identify and express their hidden emotions and attachment needs, leading to more profound intimacy.


In the third stage, Consolidation, the therapist helps to consolidate the progress made and supports the couple to practice new ways of maintaining closeness.

Consolidation aims to help couples sustain their emotional connection post-therapy.

EFT’s effectiveness comes from treating relationship problems at their core components, which are the emotional responses that underlie problematic behaviors in the relationship.

It provides a framework that helps couples understand and care for each other more deeply, which can ultimately lead to a stronger and more satisfying relationship.




A Within and Between Mindset

In EFT, the concept of “within” and “between” plays a crucial role in understanding and transforming relationship dynamics.

The “within” refers to the emotional experiences and struggles that each individual brings into the relationship.

It involves exploring their internal world, including past traumas, attachment styles, and unmet emotional needs.

By understanding and addressing these individual issues within each partner, EFT aims to create a more secure emotional foundation for the relationship.

On the other hand, the “between” in EFT focuses on the interactions and patterns that occur between partners.

This includes communication styles, triggers, negative cycles, and the ways in which partners respond to each other’s emotions.

EFT therapists help couples identify and understand these negative patterns, assisting them in creating new, healthier ways of relating to one another.

By exploring both the “within” and “between,” EFT helps couples develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their partner. Through this process, individuals can gain insight into their own emotional needs and vulnerabilities while also learning to better attune to their partner’s emotions and needs.

Ultimately, working on the “within” and “between” aspects of their relationship helps foster a secure emotional bond between partners, where both individuals feel safe, validated, and supported.

Benefits of EFT for Couples Struggling with Addiction and Trauma

Addiction and trauma are common challenges for many individuals and couples. These issues can create a range of negative emotions such as guilt, shame, betrayal, and anger, which can be incredibly overwhelming to manage.

EFT can benefit couples struggling with the fallout of addiction and trauma by providing a framework to explore and express these emotions safely. The therapist can help couples understand how their emotional states influence their choices and behaviors and provide tools to manage those feelings in a healthy way.

By expressing their emotions and seeking to understand each other, couples can create a connection that helps to recover and restore their connection as a result of addiction or trauma.

Does Emotion-Focused Therapy work for everyone?

While EFT has been shown to be effective for most couples, it is essential to understand that every relationship is unique.

Factors such as communication style, attachment styles, and family dynamics can vary from couple to couple, and this can affect the success of therapy.

Additionally, the couple’s commitment to therapy and willingness to change is also essential.

Therefore, it’s critical to find a qualified therapist who is trained and experienced in working with couples.



Emotion Focused Therapy is a powerful form of couples counseling that can benefit many couples struggling with relationship difficulties.

Whether it’s addiction, trauma, or simply the ups and downs of daily life, EFT can provide a safe space to explore and express emotions.

By understanding our own emotional states and those of our partner, we can create deeper and more meaningful connections.

At the heart of EFT is the idea that emotional connection is the foundation of a healthy and happy relationship.

With commitment and support from a qualified therapist, couples can build a foundation that is strong enough to withstand any challenge that comes their way.

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