Sue Johnson is a contemporary psychotherapist and the co-creator of emotionally focused therapy

Professional Life

Sue Johnson graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1984 with a doctorate in counseling psychology. She is the co-founder of emotionally focused therapy (EFT) and the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy where she also serves as director. Johnson also heads the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute and is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Ottawa and Alliant University in San Diego, California.

Johnson's decades of research are chronicled in her book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, which was published in 2008. The book, designed to offer expertise for adult relationships, became the springboard for an innovative program geared to the reunion of military couples after deployment, called "Hold Me Tight: Conversations for Connection."

Johnson has been awarded with the Research in Family Therapy Award from the American Family Therapy Academy, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Couple and Family Therapy Award. Johnson continues to lecture and speak on bonding, attachment, and relationships. 

Contribution to Psychology

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT), founded by Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg, is a form of therapy based upon an attachment theory developed by John Bowlby. It can be used with individuals, couples, or families, but is now primarily used as a form of couples therapy. There are several core principles of EFT:

  • Attachment bonds are the foundation of relationships, and therapy needs to ensure that the bond is secure and that each partner takes steps to ensure the security of the other. 
  • Change can be uncomfortable because it forces a person to accept a new version of self, of others, and of relationships. 
  • Therapy must work directly upon emotions, because emotion can be both the cause of relationship problems and the source of change.
  • Relationship problems are systemic. 
  • All parties to a relationship are doing the best they can with the skills they currently have. EFT is a non-pathologizing form of therapy that focuses on teaching new skills and establishing new habits rather than labeling behavior. The therapist serves as a coach and mentor for the process of change. 

Studies evaluating this relatively new therapy indicate that emotionally focused therapy may be particularly effective with individuals who have experienced trauma and for couples with one partner who has experienced trauma. The therapist works to help establish healthy attachments, to teach each partner how to meet the other's attachment needs and to help each partner uncover the ways in which previously unmet attachment needs can cause problems in the current relationship. In an individual setting, emotionally focused therapy often focuses on helping an individual establish behaviors that enable him or her to get his or her attachment needs met.


  1. Jones, Lynne K. (2009) Emotionally Focused Therapy With Couples — The Social Work Connection. Social Work Today, 9(3). Retrieved from
  2. Vatcher, Carole-Anne and Bogo, M. (2001). The feminist/emotionally focused therapy practice model: An integrated approach for couple therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 27(1), 69-83. Retrieved from