Sue Johnson

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Sue Johnson is known for her innovative work in the field of psychology on bonding, attachment and adult romantic relationships.

Sue graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1984 with a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology. She is the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and the founder of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT), a not for profit research and therapist training institute, where she also serves as Director. Johnson also heads the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute and is Professor Emeritus in Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa and Distinguished Research Professor at 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. Created for the general public, the book serves as a self-help version of her groundbreaking research about relationships - how to enhance them, how to repair them and how to keep them. Hold Me Tight, designed to offer expertise for adult relationships, became the springboard for an innovative program geared to the reunion of military couples after deployment, called Strong Bonds, Strong Couples and the Hold Me Tight Enhancement Program.

Johnson’s best known professional books include, The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection (2004) and Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors (2002). With regard to the latter, Marlene Best writes, "Throughout the book, Johnson evokes the image of the dragon as a metaphor for the insidious power that trauma has of breathing fire into the lives of survivors and their partners. The dragon's fire is the helplessness, isolation and betrayal that are at the core of most traumatic experiences. She calls on the healing power of secure attachment as the antidote to the effects of this destructive fire. . . . an essential addition to the toolkit of any couple therapist, seasoned or beginner, who will inevitably encounter the effects of trauma in his or her work with distressed couples. Johnson provides a practical roadmap for navigating the powerful emotional world that partners can get lost in, helps them to learn to slay the dragon together, and strengthen their emotional connection in the process."[1]

Hold Me tight[edit]

Rebecca Jones, editor of The American Journal of Family Therapy, describes Hold Me Tight as "a clear and reachable roadmap to a satisfying and happy love connection. . . . Influenced by the writings of John Bowlby, Johnson emphasizes (1) the universal need for a significant attachment from the cradle to the grave and (2) the route to lasting love through emotional accessibility, responsiveness and engagement. It is the profound need for other and then pain of emotional disconnection that then results in automatic reactions of fight, flight or freeze that then shape the negative patterns of relationship distress."[2]

Love Sense[edit]

Love Sense: The Revolutionary Science of Romantic Relationships, Johnson’s latest book (2013), outlines the logic behind why and how we love, based on new scientific evidence and cutting-edge research. Explaining that romantic love is based on an attachment bond, Johnson shows how to develop our “love sense” and our ability to develop long-lasting relationships. Kirkus Reviews describes Love Sense as "A readable combination of research findings and case studies, filled with good cheer and practical advice."[3]

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)[edit]

Emotionally Focused Couple and Family Therapy (EFT), developed by Sue Johnson, is a leading approach to helping couples both resolve relationship distress and nurture effective interpersonal functioning and strong lasting bonds.

EFT is a short-term, structured psychotherapy approach to working with individuals, couples and families. It includes elements of experiential, person-centered , and systems perspectives , but is firmly established in attachment theory.

The strengths of Emotionally Focused Therapy:

The goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy:

The therapist works to help establish healthy attachments between partners and family members, to teach each other how to meet the other's attachment needs and to help one another 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.

Johnson’s most recent study, published late 2013, Soothing the Threatened Brain , is a brain scan study showing that social relationships are tightly linked to health and well-being. Results suggest that EFT altered the brain's representation of threat cues in the presence of a romantic partner. These findings provide a critical window into the regulatory mechanisms of close relationships in general and EFT in particular.

Externships and training in EFT[edit]

An EFT Externship is a four-day standardized basic training for mental health professionals. The Externship in EFT is also the first step in becoming certified with ICEEFT as an EFT Therapist.

Professional training DVDs[edit]

Johnson has created many training videotapes on the Emotionally Focused model of couples’ therapy. These DVDs are used in many hospitals, university programs in psychology, social work, and marital and family therapy training programs. They cover specific aspects of intervention and intervention with different kinds of couples.


Johnson has received numerous honors for her work including been awarded with the Training Award from the American Association of Marital & Family Therapy, 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. She is an Invited Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

Media appearances[edit]

Sue has been on, among other television programs, Steven and Chris (CBC), Unfaithful (OWN), Canada AM (CBC), Huffington Post Live.

She has been profiled in the New York Times, The Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mind Body Green, Dr. Drew, Psychology Today, Tribune, Huffington Post, Glamour, Self, Salon, Dr. Oz: The Good Life, Quartz, Wired, MacLean’s, Woman’s Day, Redbook, and The Globe and Mail.

Personal life[edit]

Sue was born in Chatham, Kent, England. She grew up in an English pub where she became fascinated by the drama of close relationships. It is here where she became fascinated by relationships and people’s emotions. Sue currently resides in Ottawa, Canada with her husband John. She adores Gilbert and Sullivan, Monty Python, Argentine tango and kayaking on Canada’s northern lakes.


Books authored
Articles authored

Books edited[edit]


For more information on Johnson's DVDs see:


  1. ^ Best, Marlene (2010). "A Review of “Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors: Strengthening Attachment Bonds”". The American Journal of Family Therapy 39 (1): 82–85. doi:10.1080/01926187.2010.530918. 
  2. ^ "Book Review: Hold Me Tight". The American Journal of Family Therapy (Taylor & Francis Group, LLC) 38: 73–74. 2010. doi:10.1080/01926180802539477. ISSN 0192-6187. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Sue (15 November 2013), Love Sense, Kirkus Reviews 

External links[edit]