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Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Couples Facing Terminal Illness


Research on effective therapeutic interventions for couples dealing with terminal illness is scant. Changes in daily routine, added responsibilities, role changes, and the grief process are all contributors to the enormous stress and emotional strain felt by these couples. Couples where one partner is terminally ill may experience anger, depression, guilt, and anxiety. The authors propose that emotionally focused couple therapy (EFT), originally developed by Greenberg and Johnson (Emotionally focused therapy for couples, Guilford Press, New York, NY, 1988) may be effective in addressing this distress and in facilitating the grieving and support process in couples dealing with terminal illness. EFT is a systemic, experiential form of therapy that builds upon Bowlby’s (Attachment and loss: Volume I: Attachment, Basic Books, New York, NY, 1969) attachment theory. By exploring the emotional experience of both partners it may be possible to re-structure the couple’s emotional partnership and support the grief process for both partners.

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Correspondence to Shruti Poulsen.

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Tie, S., Poulsen, S. Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Couples Facing Terminal Illness. Contemp Fam Ther 35, 557–567 (2013).

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  • Emotionally focused therapy
  • Terminal illness
  • Couple intervention
  • Grief process