Building Secure Attachments: The Power of A.R.E. in Emotionally Focused Therapy

Establishing secure attachments in relationships is crucial for fostering emotional intimacy and stability. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) offers a profound framework to cultivate secure connections by focusing on the principles of Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Engagement (A.R.E.). In this article, we’ll delve into the transformative power of A.R.E. in EFT, exploring how these elements become the cornerstone for building strong, resilient, and fulfilling relationships, and how they contribute to the creation of secure emotional bonds between partners.

A.R.E. is an acronym developed by Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy.

Accessibility: Are you accessible?

Accessibility in your emotional connection means staying open to your partner when you have insecurities or doubts. An important part of being accessible to your partner is understanding your own emotions. If you don’t address and understand your emotions, they will inevitably build a block between you and your partner. In order to learn how to identify your emotions, you need to pay attention to the physical sensations that are happening. Pay attention to where they are happening as well (increased heart race, tight chest, heavy stomach, sweaty palms). Take note of the intensity and duration of these sensations. What thoughts are occurring during this time? When you understand and confront your emotions, instead of suppressing them, you open yourself up to connecting with your partner and being able to read their relationship and attachment cues.

How do you show your partner you are accessibleHow does your partner show you they are accessible?

Responsiveness: Can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally?

This responsiveness means accepting and placing a priority on the emotional signals your partner conveys and sending clear, comforting and caring signals to your partner. Responsiveness means tuning in to each other’s emotions and attachment needs. You want to show your partner you are there for them to both celebrate the good and support them during the bad.  Pay attention to your partner’s hopes and areas of fulfillment, and especially their insecurities and fears. Why do they feel this way? What is leading to these emotions and attachment insecurities? What leads to your partner feeling safe and secure? Sensitive responsiveness both touches us emotionally and calms us physically. Be present with your partner and listen actively. When we know we have someone who is there to support us and celebrate with us, we feel relaxed and can let our guard down.

How do you show your partner you are responsiveHow does your partner show you they are responsive?

Engagement: Do I know you will value me and stay close?

Emotional engagement is a unique and special kind of attention that we give only to our closest loved ones. This engagement is our longing gazes, our soft touches, lingering smiles, kind gestures… those special things that we do just for our partner. Engagement is important to remind your partner how much they mean to you, it helps both of you feel safe in your relationship. Being engaged shows your partner that they are not alone. It shows that you value and appreciate your loved one. Having an engaged partner allows you to feel safe in taking emotional risks.

How do you show your partner you are engagedHow does your partner show you they are engaged?

Remember to be vulnerable enough to ask your partner, “ARE you there, are you with me?”, and pay attention to when your partner needs you to remind them that you ARE there for them.  If you are looking to improve your relationship, start couples counseling today.  For San Diego Couples Counseling, give us a call!  We are happy to help you create A.R.E. EFT in your connection.

Article by Sarah O’Leary, AMFT#123449 (supervised by Jennine Estes, LMFT#47653)

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It’s been nearly 20 years since I first became interested in studying psychotherapy. I began practicing the scientific approaches to psychotherapy in 1997 and I was hooked from then on.

I earned my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family psychotherapy in 2004 and I am currently licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist MFT (LMFT#47653) with the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS).

I focus my practice upon the empirically-based and proven research methods of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

I’ve seen these techniques consistently get results and I truly believe they are the most effective at creating positive, long-term change.

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