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Couples therapy plays can be a helpful tool for building and maintaining healthy romantic relationships. All couples face challenges and conflicts, and may need to seek professional navigate differences and come to mutually satisfying solutions. The two most commonly practiced types of couples therapy are Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and the Gottman Method. In this article, we will explore these two methods and compare and contrast their philosophies, techniques, and effectiveness. At the end, you'll be able make an informed decision on which type of couples therapy. is right for your relationship. (Learn more about other types of couples therapy here.)
Understanding Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), developed by Dr. Susan Johnson, is based on attachment theory, which emphasizes the importance of emotional bonds on romantic relationships. At its core, EFT seeks to create a secure emotional connection between partners, enabling them to navigate conflicts and challenges with empathy and vulnerability. EFT therapists work with couples to uncover the underlying emotional needs and fears that drive negative communication patterns and behavior. By helping individuals express their emotions and needs more clearly and openly, EFT helps couples in distressed relationships build more safe and secure emotional bonds. Through learning emotional tools needed to change communication behaviors such as criticism, defensiveness, and withdrawal, couples not only change negative interactions but also build a deeper sense of intimacy and trust.
At the heart of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) are two core concepts: attachment theory and emotional responsiveness. Attachment theory states that humans are wired to seek and maintain emotional bonds with significant others. In the context of EFT, attachment theory would state that the quality of these emotional bonds is one of the main influencers on our relationship satisfaction and healthy functioning. EFT couples therapists delve into each partner's relationship history and explore how past relationship experiences may be impacting their current relationship.
Emotional responsiveness, the second core concept, points to the importance of partners being attuned and responsive to each other's emotional needs. EFT therapists guide couples in recognizing and expressing their emotions in a kind yet transparent way that also helps build emotional closeness and connection within the relationship. Through the process couples learn to communicate in ways where both partners feel heard, understood, valued, and supported. This emotional responsiveness helps allows couples to navigate conflicts with less tension and more compassion for each other. (Learn more about the goals of EFT here.)
Understanding the Gottman Method
The Gottman Method as developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman and is rooted in research and observation of real couples in their natural environments. The Gottman Method focuses more on behaviors than emotions, and seeks to give couples practical tools and strategies for building and maintaining healthy relationships. One of its key ideas is the importance of building a "Sound Relationship House," or elements too help make sure you have a strong relationship foundation of trust, friendship, and effective communication.
Another component of the Gottman Method is identifying and changing communication patterns known as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," which include criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Recognizing and changing these behaviors is especially important when it comes to trying to prevent divorce. The concept of the "Love Map," is one strategy that is use to encourage couples to continually update their knowledge of each other's inner worlds which can help promote emotional intimacy. The Gottman Method tends to use specific exercises and interventions designed to improve communication, manage conflicts, and enhance overall relationship satisfaction. These interventions are tailored to the unique needs of each relationship.
Comparing EFT and the Gottman Method
Both EFT and the Gottman Method strive to improve communication, emotional connection, and overall relationship satisfaction. However there are also some key differences between them. For starters, they have different underlying philosophies. EFT is rooted in attachment theory and focuses on emotions and emotional responsiveness, while the Gottman Method relies on observable behaviors.
The interventions used n the sessions are also different. EFT therapists work with couples to identify and address the emotional needs that drive negative patterns of communication. Through guided conversations in the session, couples learn to develop communicate habits that lead more effective conversation, stop negative communication cycles, and help couples develop deeper sense of emotional intimacy.
Gottman therapists use assessment tools to identify problematic areas within a relationship. They then provide couples with specific behavioral exercises designed to improve communication, navigate conflicts, and enhance overall relationship satisfaction.
While both have research to support them, only Emotionally Focused Therapy is considered is considered the gold standard because it is current the only evidenced based treatment for relationship distress. (Learn more about the effectiveness of EFT here.)
Choosing the right approach for your relationship.
Choosing the right couples therapy for your relationship is a big decision. Whether you're experiencing communication challenges, conflicts, or simply seeking to prevent problems and keep your relationship going strong, here are some steps to help you make the choice that is right for you:
Ultimately, the right approach to couples therapy should fit with your specific needs and goals. Remember that seeking professional guidance is a proactive step toward improving your relationship, and choosing the right approach can set you on a path toward greater understanding, communication, and intimacy with your partner.
Looking to Start Couples Therapy?
Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling provides online couples therapy and sex therapy to those looking to improve their relationships throughout the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. Click the button below to schedule a complimentary consult.
About the Author
Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling and sex therapy in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.
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