OpenEd Offers First University-Level Emotionally Focused Family Therapy Course

Posted on Thursday April 14, 2022

If you’re in the field of couple and family therapy, you’ve likely heard of emotionally focused therapy (EFT)—you may have even taken our Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy course. But have you heard of emotionally focused family therapy? 

This spring, OpenEd is pleased to host what is believed to be the first university-level course offering of Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT)

Taught by registered psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist Dr. Herman Chow, EFFT uses attachment theory and focuses more on relational issues instead of the behaviour behind the issue. 

“EFFT therapists help families shift from problem-child focus to relational focus,” says Chow. “We assist families to see beyond their unhelpful behaviors (such as a child’s rebellion or a parent’s over-discipline) and understand these behaviors in the relational and attachment context; for example, when children rebel or act up, it is often their attempt for an attachment bid that goes unnoticed by their parents. They may act out even more in order to have their attachment bid heard. Of course, the more they act up, the more their parents may feel things are out of control and they feel helpless and incompetent to stop it. Parents may react with more discipline and punishment. This invites their children to act out more because they don’t feel heard by their parents.”  

Family therapy can become quite tricky because there are multiple people involved (e.g., parents, children, siblings, grandparents, etc.). There are various systems to assess, such as the family system, couple system, or sibling system, and all sorts of families such as intact families, single-parent families, chosen families, etc.

Chow emphasizes that EFFT requires therapists to do a thorough assessment of these various systems and notice what is blocking parents’ ability to tune in to their children and their distress. By working through these blocks, family members can find safe and secure attachment. 

“EFFT is an effective therapeutic model to help families connect better,” says Chow. “When families feel safe and secure, children can share their vulnerabilities and ask for what they need from their parents (attachment bid) and parents will be assessable, responsive, and emotionally engaged with their children.” 

Although EFT with couples has 30+ years of evidence-based research, EFT with families is still developing its own research, and Dr. Chow is hoping to contribute to its growth by teaching this new course at the university level.

“I’m personally excited about it; I myself am very passionate about emotionally focused therapy,” says Chow. “I’m glad to be part of the first university-level offering of Emotionally Focused Family Therapy.” 

Emotionally Focused Family Therapy begins April 22, 2022 and will be delivered remotely