Emotional responsiveness – tuning into and supporting the other – is the key defining element of love.


What do I do?

I research how relationships can be repaired, how the bonds of love work, and how people change in psychotherapy.

Most of my research focuses on the efficacy of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), a therapy I developed more than 30 years ago. It’s acknowledged as the gold standard in tested, proven interventions for couples. EFT is all about emotion, the music that dictates how we move with or away from our own vulnerabilities and needs. My team and I have been able to demonstrate its effectiveness through peer-reviewed clinical research that continues today.

I’ve received many awards for this research and was named “Psychologist of the Year” in 2016 by Division 43 of the American Psychological Association. I’ve also been recognized by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Couple and Family Therapy.

As a clinical psychologist, I work with couples, individuals dealing with depression and trauma, and families, to help them find their way home.

I’ve often been called “the best couple therapist in the world,” and I spend much of the year training other professionals around the world in EFT. The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT), my institute in Ottawa, links 70 centers around the globe and supports therapists learning and researching EFT.

I write books for the public and am proud of my best-sellers. In 2008’s Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, I wanted to create a self-help version of our groundbreaking research for the everyday person who wants to learn how to enhance, repair, and keep their most precious relationships. In my 2014 book, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, I proposed a very simple idea: once we understand that romantic love is based on an attachment bond, we can develop our “love sense” and our ability to develop long-lasting relationships.

We’ve developed Hold Me Tight into a relationship enhancement program called (wait for it!) Hold Me Tight® Online that allows the wisdom of EFT to reach couples wherever they are.

I still write popular books for therapists, the latest being 2019’s Attachment Theory in Practice: EFT with Individuals, Couples and Families. My team and I continue to research ways to repair our most precious relationships and thrive as strong, resilient individuals, using attachment science as the jumping-off point.

What’s my mission?

Attachment science is the most complete way of understanding who we are as human beings and how bonds with others define us from the cradle to the grave.

Much of my work explores how this science offers each of us the promise of recovery from mental dead-ends and emotional distress, as well as a blueprint for relationships that strengthen and help us thrive.

I love my work.

I want everyone to know what we have discovered in the last two decades about who we are and how we can love successfully, particularly through giving dynamic and inspiring talks about the science of relationships. I also want every therapist to know how to tune into emotions, not just to heal relationships but to shape relationships that heal.

I spend much of the year training therapists and giving masterclasses in EFT.

Currently, I hold teaching appointments at three universities: I’m a Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University (San Diego) and a Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa. Most recently I’ve joined the clinical faculty at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry. I also consult for the U.S. and Canadian militaries.

And when I’m not working…

My three wonderful kids and their amazing partners keep me honest and humble about how relationships can be simple – once we use science, that is – but never easy.

My main diversion is dancing Argentine Tango. It’s all about tuning in to the emotional music and the way a partner moves, then moving together to find the synchrony that sparks joy in our wired-for-connection nervous systems.

The mountain/cloud/sea/tree backdrop of Victoria, BC, reminds me that we are small and frail. But if we learn to stand together…. well, that would be something!

The greatest honor I’ve ever received was the Order of Canada in 2017. It’s the highest honor given to civilians for achievements and contribution to my country. The motto of this order is “They desire a better country,” and I believe that Emotionally Focused Therapy can be a tool for harnessing the power of connection to shape a better world.

P/c: Kelly McDonald

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