Emotion-Focused Family Therapy

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Part of the Emotion-Focused Therapy “family” and rooted in a deep and unwavering belief in the healing power of families, the essence of EFFT is to afford caregivers a significant role in their loved one’s mental health and well-being.  The therapist’s role would then be to empower and support caregivers in mastering the skills, tasks, and, yes, the feelings involved in four main domains:

  1. Becoming their loved one’s recovery coach, that is, assisting their loved one – regardless of age – in the interruption of symptoms and maladaptive behaviors (anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, etc.) as well as in the transition from stressful life events (a divorce, diagnosis of a learning disability; placement into foster care, etc.); becoming their loved one’s emotion coach, that is supporting their loved one to approach, process and manage stress, emotions and emotional pain, making symptoms unnecessary to cope; facilitating relationship repair and healing possible wounds from the child or family’s past in order to help loved ones to let go of the weight of old injuries, and working through and resolving the fears and obstacles that surface in the caregiver during this challenging and novel journey.

This last step is necessary when these fears and obstacles interfere with the parent or caregiver’s ability to be effective in their efforts. For example, some parents are afraid that engaging their child in the tasks of recovery and coping will lead the child to feel depressed or suicidal, leaving the parents paralyzed with fear & thus stuck in an impossible bind. There are many other emotion blocks that can surface throughout the family’s journey. For example, parents may sometimes feel resentful that their child continues to struggle and this resentment can influence their helping behaviors. Other parents may feel helpless and without skills and thus find themselves relying on controlling or punitive techniques to motivate behavior change. EFFT can help parents to process and work through these “emotion blocks” in addition to providing skills training in order to help them to feel capable of handling the challenges ahead.

Parents and caregivers can learn these skills and take on these roles regardless of their child’s level of motivation or involvement in formal treatment. EFFT is a lifespan approach that can be delivered with individuals only, parents and caregivers only, and with families. Click here to read an article covering EFFT for families of children with mental health difficulties.

The Individual Approach

In some cases,  individuals are not able to have their parents or caregivers involved. It is possible to achieve many of the same goals with individuals using Emotion-Focused Therapy, although family involvement is the goal whenever possible.

A Bit More on EFFT

EFFT is a treatment model first developed for individuals struggling with an eating disorder and their families based on the principles and techniques of 1) traditional Emotion-Focused Therapy, 2) behavioural family therapy, 3) motivational enhancement therapy, and 4) the New Maudsley family skills-based approach.  It has since been adapted for a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders, as well as parent-child relationship difficulties.

As EFFT is still early in its development, it is most often delivered as an adjunct to standard treatment and research evaluating its effectiveness is currently in progress. In fact, we are excited to announce that we have published a new research article! Click here for the abstract!