‘What Happened to You?’

Not ‘What is Wrong with You?’ but ‘What Happened to You?” In this powerful and highly informative book written by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah, who explore childhood trauma and how this trauma and PTSD, especially in the first 2 months of life, affects children and adults overtime. In this interview, they also share how to help reduce the impact of pain from early trauma with the comfort of a safe other.

EFT Telehealth Can Save Your Marriage at CHC

During these more than uncertain times, when couples have the massive added stress of COVID-19, educating children from home, challenges with work while raising kids, it is more important than ever to have help with your relationship.

The divorce rate soared after the Wuhan COVID crisis slowed down as noted in this Bloomberg article here. The warning is that there will be similar cases across the country here. ‘Even when the epidemic abates and life can return to relative normalcy, the psychological and economic strains are expected to endure for months’. One of the best ways to counter this is with Emotionally Focused Therapy on-line at CHC. EFT has a success rate of 70-90% compared to other forms of couple therapy. Please go to the EFT pages on the website to learn more.

After providing in-person couples therapy for over 25 years, I have transitioned to Telehealth/Teletherapy format to continue to support the needs of my clients. As a result, I found it highly beneficial which has also been noted by the couples I currently see online. That said, I completed four on-line trainings as well as a Law and Ethics Telehealth training to ensure I am up to speed, which made a tremendous difference.

Give your relationship the care it needs during these very uncertain times and reach out to CHC for EFT today by calling 443-254-0686.

Emotionally Focused Therapy Steps and Stages

THE 9 STEPS TO A STRONGER, MORE SECURE, AND HAPPIER MARRIAGE

EFT couple therapy 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 the 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 of each partner and their relationship history. It also includes Identifying 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. This is done by working with EFT therapist to trace past patterns and map them out (unless infidelity is an issue).

3. The couple begins 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. This process helps to slow down the negative cycle.

4. With the help of the EFT therapist, partners are helped to reframe their behaviors in the negative 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 actually 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 between the partners.

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 safely 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 (ARE).

STAGE 3: CONSOLIDATION/ INTEGRATION

8. The couple continues 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 new 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. The couple begins to work together by processing future plans and how connection can be different in the future. This is enhanced by celebrating each partners amazing efforts and the beautiful risks that have been taken.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.) Test and Resiliency. The power of connection when we didn’t have it as children.

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.

Stuck in Those Nasty Patterns

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.


Unpacking Chet

Addiction and Attachment

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.

EFT and Negative Cycles

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.

Is Individual Therapy during Couples Therapy a good idea?

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.