About Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT)
Q: What is the theoretical foundation of EFT?
A: EFT is based primarily on attachment theory.
Attachment theory highlights how connection and belonging are as essential to humans as food and water. From an evolutionary perspective, we are hardwired to connect in order to survive—we would literally die if we did not have someone to take care of us as helpless babies. For this reason, as children we learn to adapt to ensure our attachment to parents, aligning with messages we receive about the primary language of children: emotion. For example, if when I was upset as a child I was told, “be a good girl and don’t cause a fuss," I might learn to minimize my feelings and needs. I may learn that being sad, scared, or angry is “bad” in order to stay in the loving eye of mum/dad. This is undeniably adaptive at the time, from a survival/belonging point of view, but how it shapes our relationships with ourselves and others as adults can create challenging and painful dynamics. When we explore and start to reclaim parts of ourselves that were “not allowed” or unsafe to express in our family of origin, we work to upgrade our survival strategies, teaching the body that it is indeed safe to be all of who we are.
Q: What do you mean when you say that EFT is "experiential"?
A: “Experiential” means that we use the counselling session itself to facilitate an alternative experience to that which is troubling you.
During counselling sessions, we are always checking in with the present-moment experience in the room as we talk about stories from the past. Telling stories from the past week or past decade will activate the same areas of the brain as the original and related stories from childhood. This means that by slowing down and relating to these experiences in a new way within our sessions, we actually get the opportunity to create a different end to the same story. This is called a “corrective experience" and is how humans learn not just with the mind, but with our entire being, enabling us to grow, heal, and change.
Q: What do you mean when you say EFT is a type of "relational" therapy?
A: EFT is a relational therapy in that it seeks to understand how our past relationships have led us to our current patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving, and then uses the counselling relationship to bring about desired change.
Human beings are fundamentally relational. We understand ourselves through our relationships with others and ourselves. Counselling provides an opportunity for a unique and healing relationship, one of non-judgement, unconditional acceptance, and active collaboration. These are the conditions for growth that enable us to tap into our inner wisdom and capacity to heal.
Q: Will EFT get me stuck in difficult emotions?
A: No. EFT helps you tolerate and move through and beyond difficult emotions.
When we work to connect the dots between past and present using EFT, clients can move past self-criticism and shame and often see their challenges in a whole new light. At first sadness may accompany this new awareness—grief for truly seeing and being with the pain you have been holding. However, the flip side of this sadness is self-compassion, and in time this compassion and understanding promotes internal safety and healing.
Q: Can I ask about your counselling strategies within our sessions?
A: I am happy to explain my approach in detail at any point in our process.
There is nothing secretive about what happens in the counselling room. I value transparency, so if you want any more information about the “whys” of counselling, feel free to ask! I work hard to de-mystify the process for those who need this to build safety and a sense of equality in our connection.
Q: How frequently do we need to meet for EFT to be effective?
A: Clients custom make their EFT experience.
Clients might come in weekly, every two weeks, or monthly, while others might come now and again when they feel the need. Weekly continuity is ideal when possible, as the more you give, the more you get. However, first and foremost your counselling schedule needs to feel realistic and sustainable within your lifestyle and financial commitments.