Individual Therapy (EFIT)

Overview of the Process of EFIT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) for Clients

EFIT is an attachment-based, experiential, humanistic model of therapy.  It is anchored experientially in the body and emotions and is particularly effective for clients with a history of trauma (abuse or emotional neglect), emotional disorders (depression and anxiety). These challenges shape one’s view of self and view of other, one’s process of internal emotional world and interpersonal relationships.  

Attachment theory is a developmental theory and theory of personality.  Clients may engage in an important piece of therapy, leave for a while and consolidate the gains, then return and build on the therapeutic work started.  Therapy is often re-initiated at key transitions or anniversaries (marriage, birth of a baby, loss of a parent, anniversary of a traumatic even or loss, etc.)


Stage One: Stabilization  (this could be a titrated, careful process depending on client’s emotional resiliency, resources and degree of trauma and neglect)

Stage Two: Restructuring Attachment – Self and System (relationships with those who people our mind and our world)

Stage Three: Consolidation – and ongoing growth


Stage One Goals

In the early part of theory we hope to build an alliance/safety, assess attachment and relationship history, resources and strengths. 

Shape less reactivity and numbing – move toward greater emotional balance

Explore internal and interpersonal patterns

Increase awareness, flexibility and openness, “window of tolerance”

Increase awareness of fears, vulnerabilities, longings

Increase awareness of patterns in key encounters with self, increase proximity to younger self, enter into encounters with younger self and imagined or real encounters with significant others

Improve Emotional Accessibility, Responsiveness and Engagement with self and others

More coherence in client’s life narrative and capacity to regulate emotion

Move toward self-acceptance and compassion, more flexibility in client’s model of self and other


Stage Two Goals 

Deepen emotional capacity

Reshape defining inner dramas

Expand models of self and other

The therapist, as “process consultant” guides and supports the client to feel what was intolerable to feel in the presence and support of a trust other/s.  Client more able at this time to manage more difficult scenes/memories/experiences – move INTO core vulnerabilities

“Corrective emotional experience” shifts perspective/narrative, dissolves shame/self-blame/loathing and leads to self-integration, broadens view of others and widens emotional regulation allowing for ongoing growth

We go INTO the core of the vulnerability (ie. helplessness) and deal with it differently – in a way that leaves the client balanced, coherent and integrated (Dr. Sue Johnson, 2020)


Stage Three Goals

New solutions for old problems are highlighted based on revised models of self and other and new ability to use emotion as a compass

Decisions can now be approached and supported from a position of increased confidence and competence


Anticipated Outcomes

Active engagement with vulnerabilities and needsOlder Couple Embracing

Construction of messages that assert these coherently and directly

Ability to take in comfort and affirmation from supportive other

Ability to give attuned support to another  (Dr. Sue Johnson, 2019)

Client can unlatch from old self-reinforcing patterns of experiencing and relating…” (Dr. Sue Johnson, 2019)

Template for ongoing growth

Increased ability to navigate interpersonal relationships, including interpersonal conflict

Increased ability to identify and directly express/assert needs

Improved emotional balance, resilience and capacity to manage “daily stressors” as well as “major life events”.

“Compassion, with its focus on acceptance, understanding and affiliation, can be a powerful antidote to the alienating experience of shame”  (Paul Gilbert, 2010/2011)

“To live with shame is to feel alienated and defeated, never quite good enough to belong.  And secretly we feel to blame.  The deficiency lies within ourselves alone. Shame is without parallel a sickness of the soul…”  (Gershen Kaufman, 1992)

“Shame belongs to a family of emotions that are linked to the very sense of oneself – the kind of person we feel we are…how we believe we exist for others…and how we exist in our own minds…”  (Paul Gilbert, 2011)

Credit to Dr. Leanne Campbell, EFT Trainer, Vancouver Island, Canada for basic content of this document