Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: The Negative Cycle

This month on the blog, I am going to share core concepts related to the form of couples therapy that I utilize in sessions- Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). You can see a previous blog for an overview of the model.

The concept of a negative cycle is central to EFT. The negative cycle is the pattern of the interaction that has developed between partners- the cycle includes behaviors, perceptions, emotions, and needs for each partner. I am going to focus on behaviors and perceptions in this blog, and will focus on emotions and needs in the next blog. Each of these cycle components interact and create a feedback loop.

Behaviors: Pretty straight forward, these are the actions that you tend to take in moments when you are upset with your partner or are not getting along. Each person oftentimes has a fairly predictable behavioral response. Here are examples of some common behaviors:

-       Criticizing

-       Blaming

-       Yelling

-       Withdrawing

-       Leaving the room

-       Give the silent treatment

-       Bring up past disagreements or hurts

Perceptions: I like to describe perceptions as the story we are telling ourselves about what is going on. What are you telling yourself about this relationship, your partner, and yourself in the moment when you are upset? Oftentimes, partners can have wildly different experiences or perceptions of the same interaction. Common perceptions include:

-       I never get anything right

-       I always come up short

-       He/She doesn’t care about me

-       I’m not important

-       He/She doesn’t care about this relationship

-       Things will never change

-       He/She doesn’t understand

-       I can’t share how I’m feeling

-       There’s no point

To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.

Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Valencia, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.