Therapist Presence in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy Blamer Softening Events: Promoting Change Through Emotional Experience


  • James L. Furrow, PhD, Department of Marriage and Family, Fuller Theological Seminary; Shenelle A. Edwards, PhD, Department of Clinical Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary; Yok Choi, PsyD, Department of Clinical Psychology, Patton State Hospital, Fuller Theological Seminary; Brent Bradley, PhD, Department of Psychology, Family Therapy Program, University of Houston – Clear Lake.

  • We would like to acknowledge Susan Johnson, Siang-Yang Tan, David Atkins, Kyle Isaacson, and Kelly Muhonen for their support in the development of this study.

Address correspondence to James Furrow, Department of Marriage and Family, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California 91101; E-mail:


The blamer softening event has been associated with successful treatment outcomes in emotionally focused couple therapy. Previous research has highlighted the critical role of softening events and heightened emotional experience in best sessions of emotionally focused couple therapy (EFT). This study examined the effects of a therapist’s emotional presence in predicting heightened levels of client emotional experience in blamer softening events. Findings from a detailed analysis of successful and unsuccessful EFT softening attempts demonstrated that a therapist’s emotional presence and corresponding evocative vocal quality were more likely to predict heightened levels of client emotional experience in successful softening attempts. Implications of these findings are reviewed in light of EFT research and practice.