So you know how it goes, she says something in an arugment, he says something back to defend himself and you can predict with great accuracy what will come next, and in more cases than not, it is bad, very, very bad. And so it goes and goes and goes until the relationship is splitting at the seams. The power of Emotionally Focused Therapy by a trained EFT therapist is to help couples slow these nasty cycles down so they can have a different, more healthy conversation that won’t hijack their relationship. Below is an example of ‘Chet’ the negative cycle and how he takes a couple down and what can happen when the couple changes that pattern. You will love this.
What we thought we knew about addiction is not quite right as evidenced by the research indicated in this amazing video by Johann Hari, as he shares how imperative attachment is for recovery.
Here is another informative, yet brief video entitled ‘Rat Park’ to help you better understand the power of connection when it comes to recovery from addiction and what drives that.
Give a listen to Sam Tieleman’s presentation on Sexual Intimacy as it relates to addiction, in this case drinking, with a live couple who was willing to share their process to better understand what a couple therapy session sounds utilizing EFT.
Looking at attachment as it relates to addiction is a revolutionary concept that changes the way we see and treat addiction. On this link JimThomas, LMFT from Colorado shares his expertise regarding shame and recovery as it relates to healing from substances. If you want only his presentation, start at minute 14.
In this The Couch PodCast with Michael Barnett LCP from Atlanta, Michael shares his experience working with couples struggling with addiction by utilizing the power of Emotionally Focused Therapy compared to other forms of therapy in order to better help partners heal from substance issues.
We all become caught in negative cycles, the EFT tern for arguments, from time to time, but when couples first come to see me, they are caught in them more frequently then not. These negative cycles are more than toxic and can literally hijack the relationship, creating anger, distrust and disconnection.
This Youtube video by Sharon Mead LMFT is a lovely way to learn about the negative cycles that block couples from connection.
The primary goal of EFT Couple Therapy is to help partners safely turn to one another in times of distress, and to work through their problems from the past and present for the rest of their relationship together, rather than turning to an individual therapist when things go wrong for years down the line in their relationship. The challenge occurs when partners do concurrent individual therapy and while also doing ongoing EFT couple therapy, and each or both partners are still turning to their individual therapists for support rather than risking, with the EFT therapist’s help, to turn to their partners. Instead, each partner may have learned to attach to their individual therapist. This means, when a couple hits a hard spot, their respective ‘go to’ for support is someone outside their relationship, not each other. This basically leaves the couple in the same place when they started EFT couple therapy and is counterproductive to the EFT process where we are working to have the couple safely attach to one another.
In some instances it is recommended partners see an individual therapist during ongoing EFT couple therapy when there are substance abuse/dependence problems, also known as process addictions, that are not managed, major depression with suicidal ideation, difficulty functioning with severe anxiety and PTSD, moderate to severe dissociation, as well as delusions and hallucinations. In these instances, both the individual and couple therapists would need to communicate with one another frequently, with the client’s consent, of course, to ensure all parties are ‘on the same page’ and working towards ‘similar goals’.
Beyond these exceptions, there are several other concerns one needs to be aware of when continuing individual therapy or pursing individual therapy during ongoing EFT couple therapy. There may be serious implications and complications, such as when the individual therapist and the couple therapist are working towards two opposite goals. An example of this conflict occurs is when the individual therapist believes it is in the client’s best interest to leave the marriage or the relationship. This is usually based on their inaccurate perception of the relationship, even though they have not worked with the partner and is based on one-sided information from the partner. Concurrently, the EFT couple therapist is working to deepen the relationship. This can be extremely confusing for the client and may lead to the client acting out by continuing an affair, medicating with substances or other process addictions, as a way to cope, or not being fully engaged with the EFT process. This may also harken back to an earlier time, such as when the client’s parents were arguing or disconnected and the client fell through the cracks as a kid or teen while being given confusing messages. It also makes doing the couple therapy very arduous and unproductive, causing the process to stall, if not fail.
I have known some couples who started with a particular couple therapist, and then that couple therapist became an individual therapist, because one of the partners didn’t feel comfortable and the therapist began to work solely with the remaining partner on the relationship, without the other partner present. This can go on for years, ten years in one case that I am aware of. The now, individual client, may believe that they are working on the relationship without the partner present, which is not really individual therapy, it is relationship therapy, without the partner, and is ineffective. The rare exception to this dynamic working is when there is an EFT Individual Therapist (EFIT) helping from an attachment framework. Otherwise, most individual therapists hear one side of the relationship, the one with the partner complaining about their non-present partner, and arrive at negative biased conclusions that drive the marriage further apart, causing the relationship to end in separation or divorce.
Now, let’s say that the withdrawing partner has left the therapy and the remaining partner then decides to work with the couple therapist, who has now become an individual therapist. It turns out, there may not be any legal implications here, but there may be some ethical contraindications, because the therapist has allowed a couple to go from the client as a relationship, to the client as an individual, which changes the therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist. Again, this is where Emotionally Focused Therapy is different. When a couple comes to see me, or a certified EFT Therapist, their relationship is my client. If a partner decides therapy isn’t what they want, the therapy is terminated and referrals are made to individual therapists, if that is what is requested. Why? Because, should the couple decide to return to therapy with the original couples therapist at a later time, the couple is the client once again and no significant alliance that has developed between one of the partners and the therapist causing a rupture in the therapeutic alliance. As a couple therapist, it is not advisable to go from seeing a couple, to seeing one of the partners for an extended period of time.
What else can happen when a couple therapist goes from individual therapy to couple therapy with the same partner? The client, who is supposed to be doing ‘individual work’ is actually doing ‘couples therapy’ without the partner present. When the therapist hears how miserable their client is as they complain and vent about their partner in the individual therapy, the individual therapist becomes supportive toward the client rather than the relationship and this can result in the therapist inadvertently persuading the client to leave the partner or block attachment to their partner. The biggest problem here, and there are many, is the therapist is getting a skewed view of the situation from the individual client who used to be seen as a couple and is not working from an attachment frame, which can negatively affect the couple therapy. This dynamic will also occur when one of the partners is seeing an individual therapist while seeing a couple therapist.
Also, and this is the big one, rather than helping the partner attach to their relationship parter through EFT therapy, the partner attaches, or is attached to the individual therapist and the partner and the relationship is left on the sidelines to continue on the path of disconnection. When you inadvertently choose between connecting with your individual therapist or your partner, this is a major warning sign. This is where Emotionally Focused Therapy is more effective, because by creating a safe, compassionate environment for both partners, the couple can work through their differences by understanding their negative cycle and work towards building their bridge of safe connection and secure attachment.
If an individual therapist is working with one of the partners of a couple who is in ongoing couple therapy, it is so important that all parties not collude with the individual client against the relationship or other partner by creating ‘secrets’ or biases. One way to ensure all parties are on this same page is for the couple to sign a ‘release of information form’ and to sign a ‘no secrets agreement’ in order for the therapists to communicate with the individual therapist to further the relationship and all be on the same page.
If however, access to the individual therapist by the couple therapist for one or both partners is not possible during ongoing couple therapy, the couple therapy may need to be terminated or delayed until all therapists are on the same page and or the individual client has worked to detached from their individual therapist in order to safely attaching to their partner, which is the primary goal of EFT.
At last, you made the decision to find a couple therapist focused on helping you with your relationship, but now you are faced with where to turn and who to turn to? Like most of us, you head to the internet, only to be bombarded by counselors, therapists, social-workers, psychologists, you name it, claiming they all have the skills to help you with your relationship. This makes the process even more daunting, and are once again left with the thought who is best suited to help me with the most important relationship of my life?
I seriously pondered the process couples face in their search for a relationship healer, and realized how much partners really do need help with this very challenging and vexing conundrum. Not long ago, two couples in one week told me they had seen 6 different therapists before arriving on my doorstep. The fact that these couples, and many others have hit multiple walls when it comes to finding help for their relationship, broke my heart, because the matter of helping partners connect is not to be taken lightly, and in fact, is sacred. Entering into this process with a therapist of limited experience or training does not have a neutral effect, despite the fact these couples may be limping along together. It had taken a serious toll on their relationship and their ability to trust one another. After six different therapists, my job becomes vastly more complicated, because, in addition to the map I utilize in helping them heal, now they feel hopeless and helpless.
On the positive side, I also realized that after seeing multiple therapists, there was an amazing bond between these partners, that even inadequate couple therapy couldn’t shake. That said, after numerous therapists, most partners are more than reluctant, feel war weary from the process and are financially depleted. This is the primary reason I am writing this blog, because it is my passion to help partners in distress and seeing multiple therapists for your relationship is tragic. Please know, I am not perfect and will post more in a future blog regarding the limits of couple therapy success. Don’t worry, many of the couples I work with make it and thrive.
Keeping all of the preceding in mind, I thought I would do what I could to help partners find the best, most well suited therapist for their relationship. Here are some steps to follow when going to the internet in search of a healer for your wounded partnership, this includes what to do if you have the name of a therapist from a friend or other referral.
The first set of postings you will see when googling ‘Couple Therapy in your area’, will be organizations such as ‘Psychology Today’, ‘Theravive’, and ‘GoodTherapy’. These are sites where multiple therapists are listed, some of which may indicate training in the field of couples, relationships, marriage etc., and some may not have specific training in couple and family therapy. Please look for certifications in the area of couple therapy on the therapists postings. Above all, please know this, the therapists listed on these sites pay to be on these listing, which means they may not actually have the training and experience you are looking for to help your relationship. Let’s face it, we all need to make a name for ourselves on the world wide web, but we also need to know what we are getting when we hire someone to help our disconnection.
AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists) had been the only organization designated to support and regulate Marriage and Family Therapists across the country, but their standards have significantly dropped. If you go to the AAMFT page link here you will see one listing for MFTs posted adjacent to a ‘Psychology Today’ listing all on one page. Here are posting of all levels of therapists, some with training in couple and family and others listed with without training, yet they are members of AAMFT, again because they paid a fee. The point is, AAMFT was initially designed for MFTs, similar to the National Association of Social Workers who represents social workers, but AAMFT has opened its doors to all disciplines, regardless, and as long as new members pay their dues and support AAMFT, they are listed as being able to work with relationships. That’s because the national agency designated to further the profession of Marriage and Family Therapists is more focused on membership than specialization in marriage and family therapy.
When doing your search, the next step is to focus on the couple therapist, or couple counselor’s credentials. Marriage and Family Therapists or MFTs have attended graduate school with the specific focus on relationships and family systems. Additionally, there are two prominent psychotherapy models in the field of couple and family therapy. 1) Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and 2) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I was initially trained in CBT over 20 years ago, and provided this approach to couples for many years. Sadly, CBT didn’t have the success I have experienced with couples providing a pure ‘EFT’ approach, which the research bares out. EFT has a 70-90 percent success rate, which is why it is my modality of choice for helping partners connect at a deep and profound level. I have gone well beyond my grad school focus of Marriage, Family Therapy, to include an advanced certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy which took several years to obtain. This indicates a much more advanced skill set than simply taking some additional course work or and having attended several trainings.
In many ways, EFT has been pushed into the background, because it’s been around since the 80’s, wait, that means it has been a focus for 30 years. While CBT is considered the granddaddy of couple therapy, it only began being utilized in the 60’s. The challenge is, CBT is supported by the old guard of most Universities and Departments at Grad Schools who haven’t moved to open the doors to new, more effective therapuetic modalities. This means, CBT is what most American therapists are taught at most Universities and colleges. Conversely, EFT is flourishing around the globe and is close to replacing the old CBT model. I well am aware of many American graduate students who only know about EFT from Dr. Johnson’s books and journals, because they did a paper on it rather than an entire course focused on it. This is very unfortunate.
This old guard, who maintains the CBT approach in grad school, also affects the way insurance companies view therapy. Most insurance companies are more than happy to provide the names of individual therapists or therapists who provide CBT, which is only effective for the one partner, which in reality, doesn’t really help the relationship. An EFT therapist working with a couple can not only drastically help the primary relationship, but can help create a ripple effect be positively affecting their children and extended family members. When we are deeply connected, we can work through just about anything together, but when we aren’t, life can be so very challenging. We are meant to be connected and not turn to our therapists for help and support through out our marriage, but find safe ways to turn to our partner for love and support after completing the therapeutic EFT process.
The gold standard search for a couple therapist, relationship therapist or marriage counselor is The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT linked here), because you can be assured, the Certified EFT Therapists in your area have under gone rigorous training needed to help you and your partner salvage and deepen your relationship. At this site you will also find the research to support the high effectiveness rate of EFT along with the parts of the world where EFT is thriving.
In addition, you may want to research the therapist you choose by doing an on line search on Google, or the search engine of our choice. If you do have a therapist in mind, type the prospective therapist’s name and credentials followed by ‘reviews’ or if you want to be very thorough, type ‘negative reviews’. If the reviews are negative, you may want to continue your search. Positive reviews can help narrow down the process of finding a good fit for you and your partner. If however, there are no positive or negative reviews, that is a cautionary sign, yet I would recommend you continue your search.
Finding a therapist trained to help you with your relationship is one of the most important decisions of your life. Please make yourself and your relationship a very important priority by doing thorough research to ensure you are comfortable with the person you hire to restore your connection with your parter. Some couples give up after one therapist, a select few hang on to see six or more therapists, you don’t want to do either. Start the process of therapy by doing all you can to ensure the best possible fit for your relationship.
“If we can reveal our inner vulnerability to our partner, we can have a corrective emotional experience if our partner empathically and compassionately responds. So I can say to you, “Here I am with all of my blemishes.” And if I can experience that you love me, in my nakedness I begin to feel lovable. This is the deepest and scariest place for couples to go. And yet EFT couples therapy can produce much deeper change than individual therapy, because it is your actual partner who can confirm and validate you. So it is a corrective emotional experience that disconfirms your negative beliefs about yourself, and your negative feelings about yourself.” Les Greenberg
Awhile back, you discussed couple therapy with your partner, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen then. Turns out most couples come to therapy a good 6 years later then when it would have been ideal to start. But, because the negative cycles between you were so bad, you couldn’t even decide on someone together, and now ‘it is crunch time’. No pressure here, but it is important to know how divorce can affect your relationship and your future compared to effective, and by that I am referring to, Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples as one of the best, and well researched, couple therapy currently.
Nancy Michaels has written an eye-opening article entitled ‘Divorce = $1000,000 Love is Grand, but When It’s Gone, Divorce Can Cost More Than Twenty Grand’, In this article Nancy paints the picture for the average couple regarding the average costs of divorce, depending on your situation.
In another article by Frank Ginzburg, there are other financial costs to consider when comparing divorce to couple therapy:
- Splitting property, investments and income.
- Retirement accounts will need to be separated, which will likely incur fees.
- After divorce, you will probably need to obtain two separate medical benefits packages.
- child custody and visitation, as well as babysitting, may have financial implications.
- Legal fees can become a major factor in divorce. Legal fees can range in the tens of thousands or more.
- Compared to extensive EFT couple therapy with a certified EFT therapist, which can cost as little as a few thousand dollars.
- The same income you and your spouse receive now will need to support two separate households – making it unlikely that you and your spouse will be able to continue on in the level you have been accustomed to.
- Disagreements, complicated settlements and/or complicated custody decisions can cause legal fees to be become exorbitant.
- At times, one person, either by intention or obstinacy or even misunderstanding, can drive up the legal expenses for both partners considerably.
You do the math, because at the end of the day there is no comparison. Besides, returning to a loving, healed relationship with your partner and creating a space for your child or children to witness parents who can work through struggles and stay connected is worth it on so many levels.
Being caught in a relationship where your needs are not being met and where you don’t feel heard or understood, is debilitating. Now there is help in the form of Emotionally Focused Therapy. Couples who successfully complete the process of Emotionally Focused Therapy counseling can expect many of the following results:
- Improved communication
- Feeling supported and understood by their partners
- Finally being able to connect with each other again
- Understanding the types of cyclical, intense, heated, fights they get into and learning how to stop them, thereby allowing them to enjoy their relationship and begin to get closer
- Healing deep unresolved wounds together
A happy and healthy relationship affects all aspects of one’s life. So, depending on how your relationship problems are manifesting, you may experience some or many of the following as a result of a secure and happy relationship:
- Improved sleep
- Improved mood
- Better and more frequent intimacy
- More confidence, decreased stress and more energy
- Improved performance at work
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and or PTSD
- Better physical health and wellbeing
- Feeling cherished by your partner and actually cherishing him/her in return
If you are parents, you will have the added benefit of knowing that you are becoming positive role models for your children, showing them what a healthy, loving, relationship looks like and in turn setting your kids up for success in their future relationships. But, the best part is your kids won’t feel caught in the middle not knowing what to do and feeling so helpless not knowing how to help.
Basically, the goal of EFT couples therapy is to assist you, as a couple, understand the old patterns that hijack your relationship and help you find new ways to alter those emotional and behavioral patterns together. This allows you to feel better understood and no longer feel emotionally out of control in your relationship. Once safe enough to understand your relationship patterns and how you got off track with each other, you will be further aided to create a deeper more meaningful level of connection where you will begin to build a bridge to each other’s hearts and compassionately face one another in new and healthier ways.
If you and your partner are experiencing the following problems, EFT is unlikely suited for you until these issues are resolved:
Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence
In cases where the couple has ongoing and current relationship violence or aggression, therapy may ill advised or may be seriously contraindicated, as this could pose a safety issue. In those cases, it may be best to seek individual therapy with a therapist trained to work with relationship aggression or to go to your local Domestic Violence Shelter. If this information is withheld, during the assessment phase and aggressive behavior occurs, therapy is contraindicated and will be terminated, for safety reasons. That said, if there has been aggressive behavior which occurred years ago, due to discovering an affair or due to a trauma, and the aggression has stopped, that may be a better indicator for a positive outcome with EFT.
If the affair has just been discovered, or is an old wound that goes way back, working on the relationship is very difficult when there is ongoing infidelity. Couples therapy can become extremely complicated and may stall if the affair continues during the therapy. This can result in a waste of time, money and energy because it does not make the process of therapy safe, for either one of you. If you or your partner are still maintaining outside relationships and are unwilling to stop, this creates an impasse that needs to be resolved prior to the start of therapy. EFT Therapy can be highly effective for many couples to heal from the trauma of infidelity, but when the primary relationship is not the focus, therapy may be ineffective.
Ongoing extreme substance abuse struggles
Serious substance abuse issues may exacerbate the couples therapy and the couples therapy may worsen the substance issues initially. Therefore, a thorough assessment may be warranted and if in excess, the therapy may be delayed until an appropriate time. More recent research shows that early trauma and or neglect from primary relationships may be at the root of many substance issues. When children don’t receive the love and connection so necessary to thrive, substances such as alcohol and drugs, become a replacement form of connection as children become adults. Attaching to substances is not a healthy lasting connection, but when partnering at a deeper level becomes safer and more stable the substance can then be replaced by a caring, loving attachment. If however, the substance continues to be the main focus of the therapy, it is best if the partner receive treatment focused on recover while doing the couples work. If they are not willing to seek help for recovery, EFT couple therapy will need to end.
- Couples struggling with one another by finding themselves in the same circular fights again and again.
- Partners who don’t know how to communicate their deeper feelings with one another and are stuck in anger or shut-down.
- Partners who are so frustrated with their relationship and yet, not sure what to do next.
- Recovery from affairs, when the third party is no longer in the picture.
- Significant others desperate to connect with each other but have no idea how to, which can lead to helplessness and failure because nothing they have tried has worked.
- Partners who are interested in deepening an already strong relationship.
- Couples considering married or a serious commitment but are plagued by difficulties, even though they know they love each other.
- Blended families, where parents experience difficulty coming together on parenting issues.
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is designed for couples who are committed to trying to work things out, regardless of how much distress they are in. Please be advised, while EFT is highly effective for helping many couples struggling with disconnection, the relationship between EFT therapist and couple is essential so please unsure a good fit.
Success in couples counseling requires a commitment because the sessions are weekly in order to prevent the couples from falling back into their automatic, negative cycles. For this reason, if you are someone who has a difficult time following through with what you start, please let me know and we can explore together what gets in your way and find ways to help you stay committed to your relationship journey. If the sessions are spread out, progress may not only become slow, but may be halting. A substantial amount of research has been done to learn what makes EFT therapy work, just showing up weekly for therapy can make a big difference.
If you are ready to prioritize your relationship and take steps toward improving it, EFT couples counseling may be just what you need to help you connected to your partner.
Much of the statistics on Emotionally Focused Therapy, as established in a recent meta-analysis (a compilation of several academic studies):
* Roughly 9 out of 10 couples who complete EFT will improve their relationship more than an untreated couple. (1)
* More than half of distressed couples who complete EFT wind up not just improved, but recovered. (See definitions below.) (1) UPDATE: A second meta analysis has raised the recovery rate with EFT to up to 73 percent. (3)
* Participants in EFT complete the process with higher ratings of adjustment, intellectual intimacy, and improvement on their target complaints than couples who complete a therapy focused specifically on problem-solving.(1)
* EFT is designed to be completed in 15 to 22 weekly sessions.(1) Trauma, substance issues, prior DV and infidelity may delay progress, but can still be effective.
Distressed – A couple is said to be “distressed” if their scores on measures of relationship satisfaction place them at major risk for separation or divorce, based on long-term studies of other couples. Distressed couples have historically been the hardest for therapists to treat successfully; Emotionally Focused Therapy seems to work quite well.
Improved – A couple completing treatment is considered “improved” if their scores on relationship satisfaction measures have increased beyond what could be expected by chance. “Improved” is one way of saying a couple’s relationship has gotten better.
Recovered – A couple completing treatment is said to have “recovered” only if all of the following are true: They entered therapy as a “distressed” couple; they made significant and reliable improvement through the course of therapy; and at the end of therapy, they no longer qualify as “distressed” on measures of relationship satisfaction.
In the practice of EFT attachment injuries (infidelity, perceived abandonment and or rejection, betrayals, constant criticism, etc.) often block the progress in couple’s therapy. In moments where there is a high need for connection with one’s partner, these attachment injuries block connection and trigger panic and insecurity instead. Studies conducted on the outlined steps for forgiving attachment injuries (2006) used in a brief EFT intervention show: 63% of the couples were able to forgive the injury and complete the therapy events that predict success in EFT: these results were found to be stable in a follow-up study (2010). Less effective results were reported in couples who: had multiple attachment injuries: had lower levels of initial trust: reported the intervention was too brief.
Finally, EFT research indicates that a couple’s engagement in the therapy sessions is more significant as a predictor of treatment success than their level of distress at the time they initiated therapy (1996).
Note: These are in order of their appearance above.
1. Byrne, M., Carr, A., & Clark, M. (2004). The efficacy of behavioral couples therapy and emotionally focused therapy for couple distress. Contemporary Family Therapy, 26(4), 361-387.
2. Cloutier, P. F., Manion, I. G. Walker, J. G., & Johnson, S. M. (2002). Emotionally focused interventions for couples with chronically ill children: A two year follow-up. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 28(4), 391-398.
3. Johnson, S. M. (2002). Marital problems. In Sprenkle, D. H. (Ed.), Effectiveness research in marriage and family therapy. Washington, DC: AAMFT.
*Much of the information provided above is by Dr. Benjamin Caldwell
Insightful Adult attachment questionaire
You can learn about your own attachment style.
Empirically validated: It’s one of the few approaches to couple therapy shown by research to be effective – even with highly distressed couples. An impressive 90% of couples experienced at least some improvement in their relationship.
See EFT research PDF.
Based on John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory: As applied to adult love relationships, it recognizes the ongoing need we all have for reliable attachment figures in our intimate relationships and assumes that a secure attachment with our partner provides the solid base that helps us manage emotional distress.
An experiential approach: Couples change by identifying and expressing their ongoing need for strong, accessible, responsive emotional connections. Emotions are the focus because they are compelling and instructive; they tell us what’s important to us.
Growth oriented: The focus is on individual and couple strengths and recognizes that human beings have an inherent drive towards growth and healthy relationships.
Collaborative: A strong alliance – where couples are the experts on their own experience and can express this in therapy – is key. The therapist’s role is that of process consultant, helping partners connect their own internal experience with their couple interactions.
Focused on the present: While history often plays an important role in shaping our ways of relating, it is the emotionally driven interactions in the here and now that are the focus of therapy.
Emotionally engaging: The active, evocative approach is especially effective at drawing out men, who often have more difficulty accessing and expressing their emotions.
Clear and concise: Susan Johnson, the principal developer of EFT for couples, has clearly elaborated a therapy model that relies on attachment theory as the basis for understanding adult love relationships, including the nature of conflict and the change process in couple therapy.
“Rigorous studies during the past fifteen years have shown that 70 to 75 percent of couples who go through EFT recover from distress and are happy in their relationships. The results appear lasting, even with couples at high risk for divorce.”
-Dr. Sue Johnson, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Ottawa; Director of Ottawa Couple and Family Institute and International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (www.iceeft.com); Research Professor, Alliant University (www.alliant.edu).
“EFT is a proven road map to the process of change in couple therapy.”
-John M. Gottman, Ph.D., world-renowned marriage expert, cofounder of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute, Professor of Psychology, University of Washington, and bestselling author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. (www.gottman.com)
“EFT is one of the best documented, most substantive and well researched approaches to couple therapy.”
-Alan S. Gurman, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Family Therapy Training, University of Wisconsin Medical School, and a leading authority on the clinical practice of couple therapy.
EFT is “one of the few approaches to marital therapy that has been proven to be effective.”
-Jay Lebow, Ph.D., LMFT, ABPP, Past President, Division of Family Psychology, American Psychological Association (www.apa.org); Research Consultant, The Family Institute, Northwestern University (www.family-institute.org).
For more information about EFT, EFT training and EFT research, read Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson and go to www.iceeft.com, www.emotionallyfocusedtherapy.us, and www.holdmetight.com.
Dr. Susan Johnson helps us understand how Emotionally Focused Therapy can SAVE your relationship and give us the EFT steps to help us do it. Don’t miss this great article.
It isn’t a secret anymore because Harvard researchers have studied men for over 75 years in a longitudinal research study to determine what creates healthy, happy lives. Turns out it is healthy, happy relationships. This really speaks to the need for effective EFT couples therapy if you relationship is in distress.
Revolutionary film footage of a couple in distress and the affect of the ‘still face experiment’ on a partner compared to an infants lack of response from a mother. The classic still face experiment was initially done with a mother and their infant to show attachment reactions, but this video goes a step further to show how powerful disrupted attachment is on the partners. A must see.
In ‘Rethinking Narcissism,’ Dr. Malkin presents narcissism on a spectrum, too much is problematic and too little, it turns out, is a problem as well. Like most things in life there is a balance. But what really stands out here is that old thinking that once a narcissist always a narcissist, just doesn’t hold up anymore. Narcissism isn’t created in a vacuum and for many folks dealing with this issue, change is possible. Especially with empathy and helping them and their partner understand the consequences of their behavior. By the way, when taking the narcissism test, don’t attempt to take it for your partner, mother etc., this needs to be more further evaluated by a mental health practitioner. I have had couples who have been told by their former therapists that their partner is a narcissist and therefore is not treatable. I often wonder, if the therapist is burned out and feeling helpless in such situations, rather than working to help those with narcissistic traits feel heard and understood.
When partners are traumatized by infidelity and betrayal, ‘How Can I Forgive You’ helps the body and heart of the reader begin to explore options to healing. For example, how not to be caught up the pain that in many cases keeps the person who has been betrayed, hurting more. It is also helpful for the partner who had the affair, read or listen to, in order for them to better understand the pain their partner is experiencing. Reading out loud to one another helps provide healing and creates connection and understanding.
The seminal read for partners when an attachment injury such as infidelity has occurred.
Shirley Glass helps both the person who cheated and the one who was cheated on understand one another’s experience as though they are in the shoes of the other and what has created these tragic events. This is a book many cannot put down and is usually devoured when an affair has been recognized. Please couple this process with Hold Me Tight otherwise it can be too much at one time. Caution: Creating a timeline of the infidelity, will only create more PTSD symptoms making it harder to heal. I am not suggesting that the evens be ignored, they, in fact, need to be processed with the partner in a way the partner can hear the pain not only the rage.
This hands on must read, resource helps couples begin the process of building a foundation of new ways of connecting together. While Hold Me Tight is an excellent primer for therapy, this workbook will help carry the couple throughout the therapeutic process to really integrate the experience of therapy and create more safety between sessions. Reading and doing the exercises in the book together, between sessions, helps each partner better understand themselves, their partner and their relationship, and the deep connective work they have done in the session. The reason I recommend this book so strongly is because I noticed that couples who integrate the workbook into their therapeutic process, build more safety and connection within their relationship and between sessions, progress through the therapeutic process more quickly. Oh and BTW, I have utilized the book within my own relationship and really enjoyed getting to know my husband and my patterns with him even more.
The ‘Demon Dialogues’ and ways to stop the cycle and pain.
‘Hold Me Tight’ by Dr. Susan Johnson is a must read for any couple embarking on the journey of reconnecting and rebuilding their primary relationship. It is my first recommended reading for any couple beginning couples therapy for several reasons. Number one, the book helps one understand the science and research behind EFT, because it is not some fly by night couples therapy approach, but has deep scientific roots. Second, Dr. Johnson lays out the dances couples become caught in found in the section entitled ‘Demon Dialogues’ which enables couples to see that they are not alone in their dances and can start to identify when they become caught so they can stop these demon dances. Third, the deeper core wounds or attachment injuries can and do occur as a result of the negative dances and she gives hope on how to help couples moving through the hurts. Using this book alone to change your relationship, especially when you have been caught in pain and disconnection for some time, can help but it is not enough. It will help to facilitate your process when combined with Emotionally Focused Therapy.
After heart replacement surgery, each person in this video struggled with depression and healing. That all changed when they got to know each other. Doctors were amazed by their recovery, one doctor noting that there isn’t much science to explain this, but it is explained in ‘Love Sense’ and we are more and more amazed by the ‘Power and Healing of Love’
While there is no exact answer to this question, the research shows that Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) has been demonstrated to help couples without histories of trauma, affairs, addictions, and aggression in as little as 15-22 sessions. This means that if you or your partner have a history of trauma, affairs, addictions, aggression (but not physical abuse), EFT may last longer than 15-22 sessions due to the relationship attachment injuries. It is important to note that outcome research for couples struggling with infidelity who seek EFT have reached higher levels of success than other forms of couple therapy, upwards of 70 to 90%. Combined with a caring, compassionate EFT therapist, the relationship can even become more connected than before.
An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us by Veronica Kallos-Lilly and Jennifer Fitzgerald
As an Emotionally Focused Therapist who works with couples in distress, I have been recommending this book as an adjunct to the couples work since it’s arrival. I do this in order to reinforce the processes that occur during our emotionally focused therapy sessions. Couples who do utilize this book during our work together, consistently move more quickly through the process and feel more empowered between sessions. Not long ago, one of my clients queried me asking ‘Have you and your husband used the workbook?’ Realizing we hadn’t, we began working together on it Sunday afternoons using the working book during late lunches. It deepened my, and our, process in our relationship and helps me identify where my couples are in the workbook. The only recommendation or change I would make regarding this book is to call it something other than a ‘workbook’ such as ‘Bonding Resource’ because that is what it feels like. ‘Workbook’ doesn’t sound connective, and this book is.
When we struggle in our relationships and in our lives, sleep can be one of the first things to go, which adds to further distress. If this is the case for you, and your mind and body cannot seem to wind down, click on the icon of the lighthouse you will see various areas were you can be helped to relax your mind and body before sleep. Even if you wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 AM, putting the earbuds and and drifting away can help you go back to sleep.
The A.C.E. test (Adverse Childhood Experiences), has gained much attention from researchers, therapists and doctors alike. It is a profound research study involving over 17,000 medical patients who have experienced trauma in childhood, and the effects of that trauma on the body as they age. The outcome research finds that as the traumatized participants age, their bodies experience chronic illness and in some cases, a shorter life span. The events in the A.C.E. test all involve disrupted attachment with a signifiant caregiver in childhood.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris recently posted a video of the A.C.E where she explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who have experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.
When adult couples argue, they set off a cascade of chemicals in their brains and bodies that literally hijacks the body, as noted in this article entitled ‘What happens to your body when you are fighting with your significant other’. If we combine the science of abuse on the body in childhood, with the toxic effects of arguing as adults, we are activating those same pathways once again, which can cause illness in our bodies by being disconnected from our partner. Many times children witness the arguments and are caught in their own struggle as noted in this video of a child trying to help her parents understand what the arguing does to her and to them.
When abusive events occur in childhood as a result of our parental caregivers not providing the safety and security we need, physical illness in the body manifests, as noted previously. This is also related to the overused parasympathetic nervous system which is typically designed to help calm the brain and body down when it becomes activated by a stressor, but because the sense of safety is not perceived to be there, causing it to become activated, again and again. As adults, when we become activated by a stressor, such as our partner arguing with us or shutting us out, our parasympathetic nervous system tries calming the body down and struggles to do this, resulting in sense of panic and debilitating overwhelm. Overtime, our bodies and brains become compromised resulting in physical and mental illness.
There is hope, and it comes in the form of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for individuals, couples and families. A study called the Hand Holding Experimentshows us how couples who were connected through EFT therapy, were able to be soothed by their partner when faced with a stressor, unlike the partners who weren’t connected. It is as if a loving other replaces a burned out parasympathetic nervous system that struggles to sooth the body, and now the gesture of support calms the body down.
EFT is a game and brain changer, as noted by this article entitled ‘Deepening Dependance‘. In this article, the research and outcome studies show the power of adult connection through healing trauma with secure attachment. Remember how years ago, dependence was poo pooed and we were supposed to show our independence from others by becoming strong and independent? Turns out that can be toxic to the body, especially when there has been early trauma. When couples can work through their difficulties together and find ways to be there for each other by connecting more deeply, it changes the way the body responds and heals. This then circumvents the brain from signaling a continuous flow of stress chemicals to the body, which leads to physical illness. Deep, love heals. Cliche – yes, powerful – definitely.
After helping many couples where there has been infidelity, one of the sure fire ways facilitate the early process of reconnection, is for the partner who had the affair to no longer be involved in anyway with the person they cheated with. I realize that sounds logical, but sadly, after many hours of therapy, time, energy and money, some partners continue their outside relationships, expecting things to change inside the marriage. This is not possible and is actually highly destructive.
What is happening here is that the person who became involved with someone else hasn’t unplugged from the affair partner, so plugging into their spouse or significant other doesn’t happen or is seriously impaired. Those who cheated may feel justified in the affair because of hurts sustained throughout the relationship. Therefore they believe they shouldn’t have to change their behavior, so they continue with the outside relationship, expecting their partner to make changes before they even consider giving their significant other a chance. Sadly, this spells disaster for the primary relationship and unfortunately it means very little success for the couple in couples therapy.
It can be very difficult to let go when we fall for someone outside our primary relationship, and may result in a period of grief and loss while letting go. Not letting go creates more agony for the significant other to be hurt again and again and again and may manifest in anger and frustration, causing the partner who left the relationship to be reluctant to reengage because of their partner’s anger. This becomes a negative cycle associated with infidelity and can be worked through with EFT for couples therapy, unless the outside partner is still in the picture. By maintaining the outside relationship and never giving the partner a chance when the partner really wants it to work and is making changes, this can be very painful for everyone and will ultimately doom the primary relationship.
When working on your relationship involving an affair, you can process the letting go of the outside relationship with the therapist and even the partner in therapy. Sharing what was lost for the one partner and processing the wounds of the violation with the one that cheated, creates openness and transparency. Without the outside relationship the couple can heal and build a deeper level of connection and safety.
Couples therapy for infidelity or affairs is more effective if the partner who had the affair is no longer engaging in contact with the person they had the affair with. Many times this is hidden while the couple is in therapy and the therapy stalls for good reason. Please, do not believe that paying good money, time, energy you can build a bond with your partner if you are still cheating.
Click here for this beautiful presentation by Dr. Silvina Irwin, depicts the trials and struggles of a couple caught in the dance of pain involving an affair. Very moving, with depth and heart as presented by a skilled EFT clinician.
James Thomas, MFT and EFT Practitioner, shares his wisdom and insights on the radio show ‘Love Pong’, a Conscious Caring segment about how very different Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples is compared to other couple therapies. James does such a beautiful job enlightening the interviewer and helping him understand the importance of vulnerability, that he even has the interviewer tearing up.
So the topic of expressing needs vs. being needy came up recently and I thought this was such an important issue that ‘needs’ to be more fully explored and understood. It is not easy letting your partner know your needs, especially when there have been very negative interactional cycles hijacking your relationship and not allowing for safety. We may fear being seen as ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ when it comes to letting our loved one know our needs, so we march on and believe in some way they should just know what we need and not have to tell them. Then again, this could fuel the negative pattern we are caught in because if they don’t know our needs, they won’t be able to be there. All too often we then end up feeling crushed because they aren’t there for us so we respond coldly or angrily, leaving them to wonder what has made us upset now, and further fueling the negative cycle.
Please be advised, asking to have our needs met works best when we are not caught in negative cycles with our partners. This is the first Stage of EFT, and sometimes the longest part and most challenging part of helping couples gradually reconnect. Staying out of negative cycles is not easy, but better yet, understanding them and helping each other understand and guide each other out of them, is what it is all about. To learn more about negative cycles, please go to the menu bar for ‘Couples Therapy’.
Securely attached individuals ask in a healthy way for their needs to be met in times of need, and expect them to be. This is not easy for those working toward earned secure attachment and still stuck in cycles. This may lead to questions such as: Are my needs legitimate? Can you really be there for me or will you let me down again? Will I get stung or rejected, or will you only sometimes meet my needs if I ask for them to be met? Will you outright neglect my needs? All of this is vulnerable and scary as it is unknown territory because we are taking a big risk putting ourselves out there and potentially being hurt, especially if we have been hurt in the past.
The article listed here, by my colleague, explores how ‘neediness vs. asking for our needs to be met’ provides further clarification. So next time you are hoping your partner will get your needs met without you having to ask and then feeling let down when it doesn’t happen, take a moments and ask yourself, ‘Did I let him/her know what I needed in a heathy way that gives them a chance to be there fore me?’
Oh and by the way, understanding attachment, the cornerstone of connection, can help us comprehend why sharing our needs and having them responded to is so important. Attachment, which starts out in infancy (please type ‘Attachment’ in the search bar of my website to learn more about this very important process) indicates that we are hard-wired to connect and that we are more likely to evolve and be fully ourselves when we experience the love and belonging of another. When our significant other isn’t there, or has let us down, it makes sense that we worry they won’t be there for us again in the future. However, once the negative patterns slow down between the two of you, it can become safer to request your needs in a healthy manner and have them be heard. That is, neither hinting sarcastically or overtly demanding, but being able to withstand a loving choice by our partner to not meet the need, is important for us to learn and experience as well.
Even if you are in ongoing marriage counseling or couples therapy or just want to know about very important issues that plague all relationships, read on and watch this video presentation from Dr. Susan Johnson, the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy. Her wisdom on cheating and what it represents(minute 4:50 ) for both partners and how to heal it is very interesting. Also, don’t miss what it means when a partner verbally abuses the other and what is under the anger and biting comments (minute 3:00). You know how everyone tells you you need to have a close connected relationship with your parent or parents in order to have a good relationship with your partner, there is more to that that as well which may surprise you. (minute 8:19). That is not all Dr. Johnson shares with humor and expertise, so sit back watch with your loved one and become more connected.
Oh by the way, once there at the ‘Revitalize’ conference site put on by ‘Mind Body Green’, there is so much else offered about health and healing your won’t want to miss, and it is all accessible to you just by going to the top of the site where Sue gave her presentation here. So check it out especially if you have been feeling sick or exhausted and cannot seem to explain what is happening. There is a ‘love revolution’ happening through Emotionally Focused Therapy along with a ‘health and food revolution’ and Mind Body Green is helping us get it in so many ways. Just the way we need to make changes in our relationship, we need to make changes in what we eat and how we treat our bodies. It is all connected!
Many of us know about the 12 Step Approach using ‘HALT’ to slow us down, but now it is being effectively applied to relationships with our loved ones, as Psychologist Carol Vogt notes in her article here. Basically, the concept is designed to help each other in the event you or your partner or child ever becomes H-hungry, A-angry, L-lonely or T-tired because it is during these times, that we are not at our best and we are more likely to exacerbate a negative cycles we may be caught in, or to create a negative cycle, and thereby create disconnection.
So, I realized there are a few more that are worth noting to add to the HALT concept. You may want to say ‘HALT’ and send out an ‘SOS’ to your partner when you become S-sick, O-overwhelmed and S-stressed because those are times when negative cycles can really ramp up as well. Try to help each other by saying SOS and HALT when you find yourself in a rough place and you can spare your relationship from having cycle flare ups together. The linked article above can help you learn more and thereby help each other stay better connected.
If you aren’t sure what I am referring to when I mention the word ‘cycle’ as it relates to your relationship, you can learn more about couples negative interaction cycles in Sue Johnson’t book ‘Hold Me Tight’ under ‘Demond Dialogues’ listed on my ‘Recommended Reading’ page under the menu ‘Couples Therapy’ of this website. Or contact me for couples therapy/marriage counsel to start the process of taming those negative interactional cycles with me and EFT.
Looking in to the eyes of those that matter most can really change the way we relate to them and they related to us. Eye contact makes all the difference in the connection you have with the ones you love.
Check out this link from Harvard Research on Happiness. 75 Years In The Making: Harvard Just Released Its Epic Study On What Men Need To Live A Happy Life