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Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) in San Diego

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a structured approach to individual, couples, and family therapy that was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson in the 1980’s. Dr. Johnson’s research expanded the science on adult attachment and bonding to improve the understanding about what happens in relationships to guide therapists.
Emotionally Focused Therapy
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What is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

In the last forty years, Dr. Johnson and her colleagues have further developed and refined the Emotionally Focused Therapy model.  As a result, there have been many empirically supported research studies. Consequently for couples therapy, the studies found that 70-75% of couples moved away from distress to recovery, and approximately 90% show significant improvements (

What drives me in helping others improve?

My passion is to work with individuals, couples, and families to improve connection and closeness.  As a result, clients are better equipped to have conversations where barriers previously existed.  I use the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) model to achieve your goals.  Over the past 20 years I’ve struggled through relationships, friendships, and family systems. I cannot tell you the amount of sleepless nights I had over common relational communication.

When I found Emotionally Focused Therapy, it was a reorganization of personal interactions that opened the door to closeness and connection that I had never felt. With that in mind, I want to share a message of hope with you.  It does not matter if you are in a relationship now, recently married or divorced, or have never been in a relationship.  I believe Emotionally Focused Therapy can help you.

How do you do it?

Ultimately, my job is to be out of a job.  I help you to identify your stuck pattern and develop skills to stop the rocket before it launches. This is typically done by creating a more secure and trusting bond that allows partners to turn toward one another and share vulnerability, rather than turning away.

Of course it would be easy if this knowledge alone was sufficient to create the needed change, but many find it is not.  I reinforce the new pattern through a new experience in the session, which makes it more likely to occur outside of session. Emotionally Focused Therapy is considered a short-term therapy model. In other words, it is not my intention for you to attend therapy for a long period of time.  At times, however, more than 8-20 session are needed to achieve this goal.

What are the goals of EFT therapy?

The Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy – across 3 modalities of the therapy.

  1. To order and re-organize key emotional responses – the music of the interactional dance with others.
  2. To expand both the clients’ core sense of self and how they respond to others in the dance of attachment.
  3. To foster emotional balance and coherence, a sense of competence and worth and the open, responsive engagement with others that shapes secure bonds – bonds that create resilience and agency.

Does all therapy have a happy ending?

In the shortest and most direct answer – No. Attending therapy alone will not ensure you’re on your way for a new happiness and connection.  There are many factors that go into this process.  For example, some people delay attending therapy until the wheel of the bus have come completely off.  They have the bus towed to my office, and just want to tell me how “it’s all their (partner’s) fault!”

Its an easy assumption to make that therapy should be a quick fix. For example, when you are sick you go to the doctor and expect medication.  When your car breaks down you take it to shop expecting a timely (and hopefully) inexpensive repair.  Both of these examples are quick and have you back on the road in no time at all.

That is not always the case with therapy. Occasionally, one (or) both partners have traumatic experiences in their past that can subconsciously (and consciously) direct how they respond to their partner. In other words, it can feel justifiable to shut someone out or take jabs at one another.

With that being said, sometimes couples enter therapy and realized they do not want to stay together.  In addition, some partners already know they do not want to remain in the relationship but lack the ability to tell their partner.  While these cases are less common, clients do find it easier to talk.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy Change Process Example

In an Emotionally Focused Therapy session, a husband’s numb withdrawal expands into a sense of helplessness, a feeling of being intimidated. He begins to assert his need for respect and, in doing so, becomes more accessible to his wife. He moves from “There is no point in talking to you. I don’t want to fight.” to “I do want to be close. I want you to give me a chance. Stop poking me and let me learn to be there for you.” His wife’s critical anger then expands into fear and sadness. She can now ask for and elicit comfort. She moves from “You just don’t care. You don’t get it.” to “It is so difficult to say – but I need you to hold me – reassure me – can you?”

New cycles of bonding interactions occur and replace negative cycles such as pursue-withdraw or criticize-defend. These positive cycles then become self-reinforcing and create permanent change. The relationship becomes a safe haven and a healing environment for both partners.

Emotionally Focused Therapy

In an individual Emotionally Focused Therapy session – an EFIT session – Jackie moves from dismissing her debilitating sense of danger and helplessness, exacerbated by her reluctance to turn to others for support, to gradually being able to engage with her own sense of failure and unworthiness. She faces her fear that if she “feels” then she will “go crazy”.

We discover that she is on a “wheel” of denial and control that only leaves her more alone and overwhelmed. She assembles her pain around her childhood abuse and links her negative, “always whining” sense of self to her mother’s neglect and hostility. As she finds her emotional balance, she is able to close her eyes and emotionally engage in an imaginary dialogue with her mother, telling her, “If I was real and feeling with you, I knew I would lose forever the few crumbs of comfort you did give. I couldn’t do it. But you left me dying and alone. Now, I still hurt and my pain needs to be said – it needs to matter.”

She is then able to connect with the adult survivor part of herself who decided to come to therapy and can reassure the fragile terrified part of Jackie. This kind of corrective emotional experience expands her sense of self and her ability to engage with others in close relationships. We also focus on making positive memories of her grandmother live in session and using this experience to support her continued growth beyond the trauma of her childhood and the survival strategies that keep her trapped in flashbacks and depression.

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Finding the right therapist can be quite challenging. I recommend that you call several therapists in San Diego to see which one is the right fit for you. I am happy to offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to answer any questions you may have about relationship counseling and therapy. If it turns out that we are not a good fit, I can provide you with other possible different available recommendations for marital counseling in San Diego.

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