Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a widely recognized and used therapeutic approach. While it can be effective for all populations, including individuals and families, EFT is especially effective for couples. 

EFT was developed in the 1980s by psychologists Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg, who believed that emotions are an important part of the human experience and can have a significant impact on our relationships and overall well-being. EFT aims to help people understand their emotions and attachments to others. It also helps people become more aware of their unmet emotional needs and form stronger emotional bonds with others around them. In this article, we’ll explore the stages and techniques used in EFT in depth.

Understanding The Stages In EFT

EFT is a structured process, divided into three stages and nine steps. They are

Stage 1: De-Escalation 

The first step in EFT focuses on helping individuals or couples identify their key concerns

Once the key issues are identified, the therapist observes the interactions of couples to identify which negative patterns of communication are causing the relationship issues for the couple. The therapist then encourages both partners to talk about their hidden fears and emotions that play an underlying role in the relationship conflict. The therapist then reframes key issues and helps both partners understand each other’s emotional and attachment needs, leading to a deeper understanding and healing in the relationship.

Stage 2:  Changing Interaction Patterns

In this stage, the couple and the therapist work together to change unhealthy interaction patterns in the relationship.  Both partners are allowed to voice their wants, needs and underlying emotions. Both partners are also taught skills and encouraged to respond to each other’s needs with acceptance and compassion. This process aims at reducing conflict by helping the couple create a secure emotional bond. This stage helps partners to become more responsive towards each other’s needs

Stage 3: Consolidation And Integration

In the final steps of the therapy process, the therapist encourages the couple to use newly learned skills to solve existing relationship problems by creating new, healthier solutions. The couple also learns to use newly learned skills outside of therapy and makes plans to incorporate new patterns of interaction into their everyday lives. 

Techniques In EFT

EFT therapists use various techniques to help clients achieve their goals, these techniques are referred to as therapeutic tasks. A few techniques used in EFT are:

  • Empathy-Based Techniques

The therapist uses empathy to explore the client’s unique experiences while validating their emotions. The therapist then helps clients move from emotional pain to a space of self-affirmation, where they feel understood, hopeful, and empowered.

  • Relational Techniques

Relational techniques focus on establishing and maintaining a strong therapeutic alliance. Therapists create a conducive and supportive environment for clients to explore their goals and motivations. These techniques are especially important during early or challenging phases of therapy when clients may withdraw or face difficulties or when the therapeutic alliance requires repair.

  • Experiencing Techniques

These techniques are designed to help clients connect with and express their emotions effectively. This includes creating a safe space for emotional exploration, using methods like chair work and systematic evocative unfolding to facilitate the expression of feelings

  • Reprocessing Tasks

Reprocessing tasks involve working through difficult or traumatic experiences in therapy. This may include trauma retelling, where clients process and integrate traumatic events into their narrative. Additionally, therapists help clients deal with  “meaning protests,” which occur when life events contradict deeply held beliefs or values, causing emotional distress. By reprocessing these experiences, clients can find resolution, moving towards healing and personal growth.

  • Action Tasks

These are action-oriented interventions aimed at addressing specific psychological challenges. Techniques like two-chair dialogue, enactments, and compassionate self-soothing are used to tackle issues such as self-criticism, blocked emotions, unresolved conflicts, and emotional regulation difficulties.


In summary, EFT is a structured approach that focuses on helping people, particularly couples, heal emotional wounds, The EFT process is divided into three stages de-escalation, changing patterns and integration. EFT uses a combination of techniques such as empathy, validation, chair work, and role-plays to help clients deal with their issues.


  1. Ph.D, J. S. (2022, June 17). How to Do Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: 6 Interventions. PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/emotion-focused-couples-therapy/
  2. Ph.D, M. M. (2021, January 29). Emotionally Focused Therapy: 17 Tools for Your EFT Sessions. PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/emotionally-focused-therapy/

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin