Here are some of the basics of EFT as presented by Carol Corcoran, LCMFT, LMFT and Certified EFT Therapist on a PodCast with Chris at MindBodyRadio:
Here are some of the basics of EFT as presented by Carol Corcoran, LCMFT, LMFT and Certified EFT Therapist on a PodCast with Chris at MindBodyRadio:
EFT for couples is divided into three stages. Steps 1 through 4 of Stage 1 constitute the “Assessment and Cycle De-escalation” stage. The second stage is “Changing Interaction Patterns and Creating New Bonds” and consists of steps 5, 6, and 7. The final two steps make up a stage called “Consolidation and Integration.”
STAGE 1: ASSESSMENT AND CYCLE DE-ESCALATION
1. Assessment and Alliance: Assessment starts and continues throughout the process which includes a relationship history. It also includes Identify primary issues of concern such as conflict issues and how these issues create core conflicts or blocks that serve to separate and disconnect the partners.
2. Identify negative interactional patterns in the relationship that occur on a day-to-day basis. Work with your therapist to trace past patterns and map them out (unless infidelity is an issue).
3. Begin to recognize how behaviors are connected to surface or reactive emotions, that mask deeper emotions and how they impact each partner and create a negative interactional response. Deeper emotions that were previously not shared are touched upon in order for each partner to start to understand one another in a different way as safety is being built which begins to slow down the cycle.
4. With the help of the therapist, partners are helped to reframe their behaviors in the cycle in order to realize, not only how they have been fueling the cycle, but that they are able to see how their reaches toward or away from one another are positive.
STAGE 2: CHANGING INTERACTIONAL POSITIONS AND CREATING NEW BONDING EVENTS
5. Partners are safely helped to share their deeper emotions and disowned attachment needs with the significant other in a ways that had been previously hidden from the partner and themselves. This stage of the therapy happens once the negative cycles have begun to remit and are replaced with more calm.
6. The listening partner is able to more empathically attune and accept the other partner’s deeper core emotions with compassion. There may be times when new emotions not previously heard may take the partner by surprise and require deeper and further processing.
7. The EFT therapist guides you to express your attachment needs and longings, including your fears while feeling supported by the partner. The couple continues on the path working more deeply and listening with acceptance and empathy. This is about being ‘with’ each other as each is more accessible, responsive and engaged.
STAGE 3: CONSOLIDATION/ INTEGRATION
8. Continue to build on ways to apply new yet, deeply held emotions with the ability to be ‘with’ each other emotionally and empathically in order to process old problems and areas of concern.
9. Consolidate new positions and cycles of emotional closeness and attachment by blending all the newly developing skills with the awareness of closeness and deeper bonds. Begin to work together by processing future plans and how connection can be different in the future. Celebrate each partners amazing efforts and the beautiful risks that have been taken.
Having working in the field of psychotherapy for 25 years, I am well aware of how early childhood adversity, abuse and neglect can affect our health and success later in life. Taking the A.C.E. Test can help you understand your score, but pay attention to the Resiliency Test that follows in this article linked here. Most traumatic events happen when we are alone in our pain or there is no one to protect us during or after the trauma, but at the end of this article you can read how, in the Resiliency Test, trauma can be ameliorated by connection with significant another who cares, protects or provides a safe place for the person who has been hurt. Remember, it’s all about creating healthy, loving connections. Here is another link on the A.C.E. provided by NPR with a recording to learn more. If your score is higher than 4, don’t fret when you listen or take the test, there is good news too. Read on.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris presents an informative video of the effects of A.C.E. on health as it relates to adrenal system and health. This is not just an economic issue, it affects people of all stratums and is not only treatable, but as she says, beatable.
One of the primary reasons and drivers for becoming an Certified Emotionally Focused therapist working with partners and parents who may have experienced adverse childhood events, was because I realized through the seminal work of Dr. Susan Johnson whose work is based Dr. John Bowlby, how powerful and healing EFT can be for survivors. Lovingly treated through Emotionally Focused Therapy with the significant other present during the process, healing can be transformative. The researchers of this early article found that ‘Half of the couples in this study reported clinically significant increases in mean relationship satisfaction and clinically significant decreases in trauma symptoms, and thematic analyses identified numerous areas where trauma survivors were challenged in fully engaging in the therapy process.’ WOW!!! So the good news here is nothing is more powerful, from my vantage point, and from what couples in healing and connection report to me, then helping partners deeply and lovingly connect, especially if one or both partners were exposed to early adverse childhood experiences. Help and healing comes in the form of Emotionally Focused Therapy for partners in distress which is a game changer.
Even the prominent mainstream magazine Health (October 2019) speaks to the effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Therapy when it comes to help for couples in distress.
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 or couple therapist when things go wrong.
Sometimes, challenges can occurs when partners do concurrent individual therapy 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. What can happen instead is each partner may have attached 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 seeking couple therapy and is counterproductive to the EFT process where we are working to have the couple safely attach to one another.
There are some instances where it is recommended one or both partners see an individual therapist during ongoing EFT couple therapy such as when there are substance abuse/dependence problems, also known as process addictions, that are not managed. Also, major depression with suicidal ideation, difficulty functioning with severe anxiety and highly triggering PTSD symptoms. 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 and this is being implicitly shared with the partner in individual therapy. This is usually based on a desire to help the individual partner, who complains of the partner to the therapist, but can lead to an inaccurate perception of the relationship, as they have not worked with the partner.
At the same time the individual therapist is working with one partner on the fence about leaving, 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 from authority figures. It also makes 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 to one of the partners, because one of the partners didn’t feel comfortable and the therapist. 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 negatively, 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, a certified EFT Therapist, their relationship is my client. If one of the partners is uncomfortable, I will work with that partner to determine what is getting in the way and do what I can to creating comfort. 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 at CHC at a later time, the couple is the client once again and no significant alliance that has developed between one of the partners which could cause bias and create 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. I do however, provide one or two individual sessions to learn more about the relationship from each side of the bridge.
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 which is baised. 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.
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 and failure. 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 to work towards connection. Now 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.
Working together, collaboratively, with an EFT Certified therapist for couples work, while seeing an individual therapist, when warranted, is imperative for the success of the relationship. Signed releases with all parties allow for open collaboration.
At last, you’ve made the decision to find the right couple therapist focused on helping you with your relationship, but now you are faced with where to turn and whom 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, all claiming they all have the skills to help you with your relationship. This makes the process even more daunting, and once again, you are left with the thought who is best suited to help me with the most important relationship of my life?
The following are all paid sites, that means a therapist pays to be there and there are no other requisite skills other than having a license in the field of counseling or psychotherapy:
So now what do you do and where do you go since these are not really helpful?
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 complex but powerful EFT map I utilize in helping them heal, they feel hopeless and helpless on what feels like and ‘endless journey’ when they arrive at my door after doing so much ineffective therapy.
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 because Emotionally Focused Therapy has a 70-90% successrate.
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.
When googling ‘Couple Therapy in your area’, the listing will include organizations such as ‘Google’, ‘Psychology Today’, ‘Theravive’, ‘Thervo’ and ‘GoodTherapy’. Again, these are sites where multiple paying 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, such as ‘Certified Emotionally Focused Therapist’. Above all, please know this, the therapists listed on these sites ‘pay money’ to be on these listings, 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 AAMFT, a national agency designated to further the profession of Marriage and Family Therapists is now focused on membership rather than the advancement and 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 25 years ago, and provided this approach to couples for many years. Sadly, CBT didn’t have nearly the success I have experienced with couples providing a pure ‘EFT’ approach, which the research bares out. EFT has a 70-90% 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 with tons of research to back it up. While CBT is considered the granddaddy of couple therapy, it only began being utilized in the 60’s and not much has changed. The challenge is, CBT is supported by the old guard of most Universities and Departments at Grad Schools, where it hasn’t moved to open the doors to new, more effective therapeutic modalities, such as EFT. 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 everywhere but the U.S. I am 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, which 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 by positively affecting the couple’s 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 connect with our partner and not turn to our therapists for help and support in our marriage once EFT therapy is completed.
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 undergone 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, and 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 top 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 and do your research.
“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