DOI: 10.1111/famp.12961 ISSN: 0014-7370

Addressing power in couples therapy: Integrating socio‐emotional relationship therapy and emotionally focused therapy

Amanda Jenks, Gwen Adams, Bonnie Young, Ryan Seedall
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology


Romantic relationships are more satisfying and fulfilling when power is balanced relatively equally between partners (Leonhardt et al., Journal of Family Psychology, 34, 2020, and 1). Yet, few couples therapy models explicitly outline how to confront relational power issues (Knudson‐Martin & Huenergardt, 2015, Socio‐emotional relationship therapy: Bridging emotion, societal context, and couple interaction, Springer). Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT; Johnson, 2020, The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy, Routledge) is a well‐established, evidence‐based therapy modality that many therapists use with couple clients, yet despite its effectiveness, it does not provide direction for explicitly addressing and treating power differentials in couple relationships. In this paper, we explore the integration of EFT with Socio‐emotional Relationship Therapy (SERT), a model overlay that acknowledges the impact of social discourse on enactments of power in intimate couple relationships. We first address the importance of understanding power in couple relationships, addressing power in couples therapy, and provide a brief overview of SERT and EFT. We then introduce an integration of the models intended to help therapists balance power, increase connection, and secure attachment bonds between romantic partners.

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