Jeff Fine

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EFT therapy for distressed couples

TotalSelf Considered podcast iconToo many couples are in distressed, unfulfilling relationships. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) provides a roadmap to create a safe, secure, loving bond. Find out how it works on this episode of the podcast, The TotalSelf Considered.

Most partners begin a romantic relationship with the best of intentions to create a safe, secure, and loving connection. But not too far down the road many couples find themselves hopelessly locked in seemingly unresolvable, repetitive cycles of conflict, alarmed by the pain of feeling so disconnected and the fear of not mattering or not measuring up to their most import person.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is arguably the most effective model of couple therapy
available and the only model of couple therapy that is based on a clearly delineated and
empirically validated theory of adult love. EFT is ideally suited to help couples understand and
de-escalate chronic negative interactions, repair longstanding emotional injuries, and foster safe and secure bonds.

In this episode of The Total Self Considered, Jeff Fine interviews Dr Laurie Freeman,
a licensed psychologist, certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist/Supervisor (EFT), and
a certified Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapist (AEDP).
Jeff and Laurie breakdown how this approach works and discuss why the outcomes after
therapy are consistently positive. They also present a vignette of a distressed couple going
through a series of agonizing negative interactions, explain the dynamics and patterns
underneath, and highlight how EFT can help the partners to resolve their underlying issues.

Listen to the first episode of The Total Self Considered to find out more!

Summary of Episode

  • Success rate and validity of EFT model of therapy
  • EFT focuses on meaning behind behaviors, offers corrective emotional experience
  • Not advising on the “content” of problems but digging under
  • Vignette demonstrating painful cycle in a couple’s relationship through the attachment
    theory lens
  • Separation distress
  • The role of amygdala: responding to threats – fight or flight response
  • Feeling hurt or rejected by our partner targets same area in brain as physical
    pain and threatens our sense of safety
  • Cycle of pursue – withdraw
  • EFT assumes that partners have good reasons for acting the way they do, even if their
    thoughts, feelings, and behavior seem hurtful or irrational
  • Tuning into partners’ softer, less reactive expressions of hurt and pain is easier to hear
    than tuning into criticism and blame
  • Why enactments work so well: shows vulnerability vs criticism, allows partners to come
    in close and respond with empathy
  • People who have safe and secure connections in their relationships are generally
    healthier, happier, and feel more optimistic about their lives
  • Typical things that pursuers and withdrawers do and say
  • Therapists validate and help each partner feel understood, heard and seen
  • Working from the bottom up: attention to feelings, attachment longings and primary
  • How EFT can help when behaviors are pathologized
  • How long it typically takes couples to make long lasting change in their relationship


“We aren’t just changing the way people interact, we’re not dealing with the symptoms, but
we’re changing the bond, the connection between two people so that we’re changing the
patterns and the fabric of what’s between them.” Dr Freeman

“When alarms bells go off inside of us the connection we have to our most important other
is threatened, that causes us to behave in ways that we don’t understand.” Jeff Fine

“One of the nice things about EFT is that as the therapist we have an assumption that
both parties have very good reason for feeling the way they feel and acting the way they behave
when they’re going through negative cycles. So we do the opposite of shaming.” Dr Freeman

“When couples feel safe and secure with each other, they have the sense I can count on you,
I can trust that you see me and hear me […] it becomes an amazing buffer towards life’s
challenges and the stress that we endure. When we have this primary safe and secure
connection, we really do better.” Jeff Fine


Jeff Fine’s website:
Jeff Fine’s Total Self blog:
Laurie Freeman, Ph.D:

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