In a meta-analysis an effect size of 1.3 was found. This implies that approximately 90% of treated couples rated themselves better than controls. In this meta-analysis (Johnson et al 1999), 70-73% of couples recovered from distress at follow-up (trend: improvement continues after therapy).
In a two year follow-up on very stressed couples in relationship distress, depression and parental distress results were stable.
EFT appears to positively impact depression, intimacy, and trust. In a comparative study (Johnson & Greenberg, 1985), EFT performed significantly better than controls and a behavorial skill training intervention. EFT couples improved problem solving skills even though this was not the focus of therapy.
In a recent study, EFT successfully helped couples resolve attachment injuries and create forgiveness.
EFT studies have been rigorous with implementation checks used. There have been very few drop-outs.
Family Therapy Research Results
Research in emotionally focused family therapy found the following results in a sample group of distressed adolescents (Psychotherapy, 1998, 35, 238-247). EFT significantly reduced:
- Bulimic symptoms, including the frequency and severity of purging or vomiting. It also showed a reduction in the drive for thinness.
Depression, obsessive compulsive symptoms, and internal hostility.
Predictors of Success in EFT for couples
- Therapeutic Alliance – especially task aspects of engagement are key.
- The amount of distress at the beginning of treatment only predicted a very low percentage (4%) of the variance in distress at follow up. This is an unusual result in psychotherapy research.
- EFT worked well for men over 35, described as "inexpressive" by their spouse.
- Best predictor was females' faith that her partner still "cared" for her.
Change and Process Studies
- Successful couples show more affiliative responses and deeper experiencing levels in key sessions.
- Pivotal events such as "softenings" occur in successful therapy. The therapist facilitates these events by interventions such as evocative questioning.
- Attachment injuries can be successfully resolved in a structured process.