Australian couples

While Australians are under more stress than ever before, with cost-of-living pressures and endless negative news cycles about the pandemic, new diseases, inflation, interest rate rises and impending recession, Australian couples are feeling the strain. Due to this, effective therapy has never been more crucial to the survival of relationships.

The Sydney Couples Counselling Centre was the first centre in Sydney to offer Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Founded by Dr Rowan Burckhardt, a highly qualified psychologist who began researching couples therapy techniques after enduring multiple bad therapy experiences that led to the breakdown of his relationship, the centre has been saving hundreds of relationships using EFT.

As an evidence-based approach*, EFT has shown strong positive outcomes for over 30 years and is one of the most effective couples counselling techniques. While proven to be more effective than other forms of couples therapy, it is still relatively unknown in Australia yet it is revolutionising the couples counselling space. Developed by Canadian Dr Sue Johnson, EFT’s technique is based on the adult attachment theory – the idea that humans have an innate need to connect with another person.

Studies have shown EFT to be more effective than Behaviour Therapy for Couples (the other evidence-based approach) with a 2019 meta-analysis showing it to be 38% more effective at the end of therapy, and 89% more effective six months later (see study: The Efficacy of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and Behavioural Couples Therapy: A meta-analysis). Studies have found that after completing the therapy, 70-75% of couples were no longer distressed and up to 86% had improved (see study: Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Status and Challenge).

It is human nature to take stress out on those who are closest, and with no end to the everyday strains in sight, even couples that did not have prior issues are suffering. To maximise the chances of not reaching breaking point, couples should seek help as soon as they realise that they are having issues. But getting the right type of help that is sought is also vital.

“In a previous relationship I sought out couples therapy but unfortunately by the time we found a good counsellor it was too late, and the relationship ended. I then knew that there were significant differences in the types of couples counselling and set out to discover more,” said Dr Rowan Burckhardt.

“I came across Emotionally Focused Therapy and read through the research. I was surprised how little evidence-based approaches are used in couples therapy in Australia. For over 30 years EFT, an evidence- based approach has been saving relationships and I took steps to expand my qualifications to deliver the technique before setting up The Sydney Couples Counselling Centre in 2015.

“I was the first counsellor in Sydney to offer Emotionally Focused Therapy and it has been so rewarding to see couples not just survive but thrive. The centre has grown over the years, and we are now seeing more couples come to us for help than ever before. It is clear that the external pressures most people are experiencing are contributing to this. Now, more than ever, we hope that couples will seek the right help when they recognise they are having problems, so that they can work through them and have a positive outcome.”

Emotionally Focused Therapy is having a huge positive effect on the couples counselling space in Australia and with this assistance, couples around Australia will survive.

*To be an evidence-based approach, a study needs two randomised controlled trials done by different groups that both show positive results. In the report Meta-Analysis of Couple Therapy: Effects Across Ωutcomes, Designs, Timeframes, and Other Moderators. 2020 it shows that only EFT and the Behaviour Therapy for Couples have this.

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