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How To Find EFT Training For Therapists: Understanding Emotionally Focused Therapy

February 23, 2024


A man wearing green sweater lying on the couch while the other one holds his hand

Different therapeutic modalities take unique treatment approaches, relying on various psychological theories to support clients living with mental illnesses or other life challenges. One such modality is emotionally focused therapy (EFT), a technique created by Sue Johnson in the 1980s to support individuals in intimate relationships. Understanding the EFT model can help mental health professionals take a new approach to helping couples and clients who are seeking to understand their relationship patterns. In this article, we’ll explore some of the resources available to therapists who are interested in finding training in EFT. 

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is a humanistic approach to individual, couples, and family therapy. Humanistic therapy is person-centered, focusing on all aspects of the mind and body, including emotions, life experiences, trauma history, and personality. 

This form of therapy primarily focuses on attachment theory, a theory developed in the 1950s and 60s by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Attachment theory attempts to describe how individuals form social connections and safety as infants or young children based on how their caregivers meet their needs. 

Emotionally focused therapy posits that one’s attachment style can continue into adulthood, impacting close intimate relationships with partners, friends, and family members. Attachment styles are primarily emotional and often affected by traumatic experiences and mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

EFT is a structured therapeutic modality offering direct steps to supporting couples and families in conflict. Sessions can be completed in a few months to a year in many cases, taking a shorter-term approach than some other modalities. In EFT interventions, couples can learn that emotions are the basis of connection and human experience. Although some “negative” emotions can be painful, they can also be learning tools and the way out of challenging conflicts. When couples feel safe and loved in a relationship, they may be more equipped to cope with and solve problems in their relationships and maintain emotional balance. 

EFT therapists may ask couples to turn toward vulnerability and closeness instead of pushing each other away, judging, or acting insecurely. According to the founder of EFT, this opportunity is the key to finding lasting love and connection in a relationship. 

A woman lying in a comfy looking bed while broswing through her phone

What Does EFT Treat? 

Unlike some other modalities, EFT is not specifically geared toward treating any one mental illness or challenge. However, it is most commonly used to treat couples living with severe conflict and emotional challenges. These challenges may sometimes arise due to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

EFT can also treat couples with a traumatic past, regardless of whether they have developed PTSD. Because trauma can impact a person’s core beliefs about themselves and their relationships, it is often heavily connected to insecure attachment and difficulty forming vulnerable connections. Other challenges that might be addressed in EFT couples therapy include the following: 

  • Commitment issues
  • Infidelity 
  • Difficulty communicating directly 
  • Fear of conflict 
  • Fear of being alone 
  • “Splitting” or patterns of idealization and devaluation
  • Patterns of yelling during conversations 
  • A desire to “run away” from a relationship 
  • Emotional pain 
  • Mismatched attachment styles 
  • Unresolved issues with one’s parents 
  • In-law conflict 
  • Dependency or co-dependency 
  • Mismatched household duties and responsibilities  

Can EFT Be Used For Individuals And Families? 

EFT was initially developed to treat couples because it is based on attachment theory, which most often impacts adults in romantic relationships. However, EFT can also be adapted to support individuals or family relationships. In emotionally focused individual therapy (EFIT), the focus may be on how one’s mental health concerns, attachment style, and behaviors have impacted their relationships throughout their life, regardless of whether they are currently in one or not. 

In a family setting, EFT may be used to repair family bonds with the assistance of a family therapist. This type of therapy is called emotionally focused family therapy (EFFT). It examines how attachment styles develop within a family unit and how secure bonds can be formed over time with trust, love, and empathy for each other. You can learn more about training in EFFT through the Emotionally Focused Therapy for Families website. 

How To Offer Effective Emotionally Focused Therapy

Clients seeking EFT may have intense emotional challenges in their relationships. Below are a few tips for offering the most effective and empathetic support to these individuals, couples, and groups. 

Learn About Attachment Theory 

Because EFT was founded on the principles of attachment theory and attachment science, it can be crucial to have an extensive understanding of how attachment styles can impact adult relationships. There are four attachment styles, three of which are insecure and one of which is secure. People with a secure attachment style may have the following traits present in their relationships: 

  • Ease in setting boundaries 
  • Independence and interdependence 
  • A healthy sense of personality and self
  • Comfort being alone or in a committed relationship 
  • An understanding of healthy communication patterns 
  • Comfort in sharing emotions when appropriate
  • An ability to leave someone showing unhealthy behaviors 

The three insecure attachment styles are defined as follows: 

  1. Anxious Attachment: People with an anxious attachment style may fear being alone or abandoned by those they love. They may crave close connection and vulnerability and ask for reassurance that they are cared for often, becoming significantly emotionally dependent on their partner.
  2. Avoidant Attachment: People with an avoidant attachment style may struggle to be emotionally close with those they care for, avoiding actual vulnerability and communication. They might jump from relationship to relationship whenever intimacy starts to grow and struggle to commit to others. 
  3. Anxious-Avoidant (Disorganized) Attachment: People with disorganized attachment may have an intense desire to connect and be loved but may fear true vulnerability. They may go back and forth between idealization and devaluation of their partners. When their partners are close and loving, they may become uncomfortable and showcase avoidant attachment. When their partners pull away, they may try to get closer, showcasing anxious attachment traits. 

All insecure attachment styles are unhealthy in some way. However, studies show it is possible for individuals to change their attachment style with education, professional support, and a willingness to work through these challenges. For this reason, a therapist can be a crucial resource in supporting clients with attachment challenges.

Offer Trauma-Informed Care 

Because people with an insecure attachment style may be more likely to have had a traumatic past or adverse childhood experience, knowing and utilizing trauma-informed practices in your care can be crucial. Below are a few ways to offer trauma-informed support: 

  • Understand how trauma and stressor-related disorders affect the mind and body 
  • Consider working with clients on core beliefs formed during childhood 
  • Be empathetic, patient with, and kind to your clients 
  • Let clients work at their own pace and tell their own story 
  • Consider any marginalized identities and core cultural identities your clients may have and how those can be uniquely impacted by trauma 
  • Build trust with clients before pushing them into new techniques 

Consider The Emotional Causes Of Common Maladaptive Patterns

Emotionally focused therapy focuses on the emotional causes of certain behaviors instead of only thoughts or cognitive processes. Because attachment is based on having one’s emotional and physical needs met or unmet by a caregiver in childhood, it can be crucial to treat attachment challenges by addressing emotional needs in adulthood. Helping partners learn to support each other’s emotional reactions during conflicts and everyday communication may reduce defensiveness, which can often cause shutdowns in communication. 

A diverse group of individuals gathered around sitting down during a group therapy session

How To Find EFT Training 

If you’re seeking to offer interventions in EFT as a certified EFT therapist, it may be necessary to take official training courses or classes. Below are a few options you may consider for receiving training in EFT.

The International Centre For Excellence In Emotionally Focused Therapy 

The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy offers mental health professionals training courses and certification options. To become an EFT therapist through this organization, you must follow the EFT certification path outlined on their website. This route involves five steps, which include:

  1. Taking an externship training workshop
  2. Working through core skills training 
  3. Completing an eight-hour supervision by a certified EFT supervisor
  4. Applying to be a certified member of the ICEEFT
  5. Receiving your certification after application approval 

The externship is the longest part of training, involving 28 to 30 hours over four days. This part of the training can be attended in person or online and presents the core techniques of EFT. The core skills training that follows is a two-day event limited to a smaller group of students. It requires a presentation of video-recorded therapy sessions, which can be submitted after completing an ICEEFT video release form with clients. After this submission, you can then be supervised by an EFT supervisor and receive feedback on your techniques. After successful supervision with a certified EFT trainer, you can apply for your ICEEFT certification. 

The Emotion-Focused Therapy Institute (EFTI) 

The Emotion-Focused Therapy Institute is another organization that trains therapists in the skills required to become an EFT therapist. Although not affiliated with ICEEFT, EFTI offers workshops, networking opportunities, and a hub for EFT therapists to connect with other providers. It also offers a directory for clients who are seeking therapists trained in EFT.

EFTI’s workshops involve the level one, two, and three standards outlined by the International Society of Emotion-Focused Therapy (ISEFT) as well as training in humanistic therapy, empathy, and person-centered support. You can take an individual or couples approach to this training, depending on your preferences. This certification path involves the following steps: 

  • Level One: A four-day video conference workshop 
  • Level Two: A six-day advanced workshop 
  • Chair Work Series: A two-workshop series for chair work skills 
  • Empathetic Affirmation: A two-part workshop on empathy and self-soothing 

Offering Remote Support To Clients

There are many ways to apply the skills you’ve learned in EFT certification training to real-life practice. However, not all clients can always access in-person services. For this reason, some therapists may consider joining an online therapy platform like BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples to offer their services in EFT.

As an online therapist, you can meet with clients who are brought to you through a matching system, which could include those searching for an EFT provider. Unlike a private practice, marketing, billing, and practice management are taken care of by the platform you contract with, allowing you to put all your focus on supporting your clients and answering their questions. This option may be especially useful if you’re just starting to offer EFT and would like as much experience and exposure to different clients as possible. 

If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of online support options, reviewing studies on this topic may be helpful. One study found that online therapy could be as effective as in-person therapy in reducing attachment anxiety and avoidance, which can be typical signs of an insecure attachment style or a trauma and stressor-related disorder. Researchers also found that participants in online therapy benefitted regardless of their attachment, speaking to the power of virtual interventions in offering support to all types of people. 


Emotionally focused therapy is a specialized modality developed to support couples, individuals, and family units. With EFT, people may be able to manage difficult emotions more effectively and create safer, healthier relationships with others. Several EFT training programs have been designed to help therapists achieve certification in EFT. To learn more, consider reaching out to ICEEFT. If you are an emotionally focused therapist looking to offer your services to more individuals, you may try signing up with an online therapy platform to get easily connected with clients.