Thanks to the brilliance of George Faller and Dr. Lori Watson, EFT has moved into the physical intimacy realm. Now EFTers such as myself, who are trained by these knowledgeable therapists can help couples work through not only their emotional cycles but their sexual cycles as well. This can really help the couple become connected both sexually and emotionally.
The ultimate goal of Emotionally Focused Therapy or Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, (EFT/EFCT), is to help partners safely turn towards one another in times of distress and to work through their problems from the past, the present, and the future. This is in line of turning to an individual or couple therapist when things go wrong. That said, working with a collaborative, supportive, Emotionally Focused Individual Therapist (EFIT) while the couple is in couples therapy can be effective. Working with an individual therapist who is not EFT trained can also be helpful except for some of the following reasons:
At times, challenges occur when partners do concurrent individual therapy while also seeking ongoing EFT/EFCT couples therapy, and each partner or one partner is still turning to their individual therapists for support, rather than taking the risk of turning toward their partner with their concerns. The individual therapist may think they are opening up in couples therapy but that may not be the case, stalling couples therapy instead.
When this occurs, each partner may have inadvertently attached to their individual therapist which is fine if the individual client needs that support but, when they are in couples therapy this is not recommended for a good outcome and may be a warning sign. This means when a couple hits a hard spot, their respective ‘go to’ for support is someone outside their relationship, not each other, or the couple’s therapist who can help them navigate these waters in session. This basically leaves the couple in the same place they were when they sought couples therapy, to begin with, and is counterproductive to the EFT/EFCT process, as we are working to have the couple safely attach to one another. This is where Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy can be different because we are working towards creating a safe, compassionate environment for both partners to work towards connection. If the partner does not feel safe turning to the other partner, this can be explored further in individual therapy within the context of couples therapy. In other words, the couples therapist does a breakout session for each partner, carefully balanced by exploring the blocks. When blocks are identified, we help the partner express the block and work it through with the safe other and the therapist. This, along with identifying the negative cycles, helps the couple work towards building their bridge of safe connection and secure attachment.
When is it recommended to see an individual therapist? There are some instances where it is recommended for one or both partners to see an individual therapist during ongoing EFT/EFCT couples therapy such as when there are substance abuse/dependence problems, also known as process addictions, that are not managed and create more distress for the individual and the relationship. Also, major depression with suicidal ideation as well as difficulty functioning with severe anxiety and highly triggering PTSD symptoms can benefit from individual therapy during EFT/EFCT. That said, depression and anxiety can be reduced through the process of good couple EFT/EFCT Therapy. Moderate to severe dissociation, as well as delusions and hallucinations, can also necessitate individual therapy during couples counseling. In these instances listed above, both the individual and couple therapist need to effectively collaborate and 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 pursuing individual therapy during ongoing EFT/EFCT 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 when the individual therapist believes it is in the client’s best interest to leave the marriage or the relationship and this is being explicitly or implicitly shared with the partner in individual therapy. Or, even if the individual therapist doesn’t have an expressed opinion, but may be aligning with the individual client who has thoughts of leaving. Sadly, this desire to leave is not being shared in the couples therapy or with the couples therapist for long periods of time, causing the couples counseling to stall. This is usually based on a desire to help the individual partner, who complains about the other partner to the individual therapist, but can lead to an inaccurate perception of the relationship by the individual therapist, as they have not worked with the partner or are getting a one-sided view of the situation.
At the same time, the individual therapist is working with one partner who is on the fence about leaving, and the EFT/EFCT couples therapist is working to deepen the relationship and has no idea that one partner is seriously intent on leaving. This can be extremely confusing for the client and may lead to the client to act out by continuing an affair, medicating with substances or other process addictions, withdrawing as a way to cope, or not being fully engaged with the EFT process because they turn to their individual therapist as well as process addictions. This again, stalls the couples therapy and or can lead to failure for the relationship.
I have known some couples who started with a particular couple therapist, and then the couple therapist became an individual therapist for one of the partners because the other partners didn’t feel comfortable with the therapist. This can go on for years, ten years in one case. The individual client may believe they are working on the relationship without the partner present, which is not really individual therapy, it is relationship therapy, without the partner present and is ineffective. The rare exception to this dynamic working is when there is an EFIT Individual Therapist 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 but was a couples 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.
Emotionally Focused Therapy is different because when a couple works with a certified EFT Therapist who is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, their relationship is the client. If one of the partners is uncomfortable, CHC will work with that partner to determine what is getting in the way and do what I can to create comfort and safety. If a partner decides therapy isn’t what they want, the couples therapy is terminated and referrals are made to other 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 has developed between one of the partners which could cause bias and create a rupture in the therapeutic alliance should they both want to be seen again. 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 because this creates a bias. I do however, provide several individual sessions for each partner within the context of the relationship to learn more about the relationship with each partner individually, but this is kept in balance.
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 with referrals for another couples therapist or delayed until all therapists are able to be on the same page and or the individual client has worked to detached from their individual therapist in order to work towards safe attachment to their partner in couple therapy, 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 this open collaboration.
As we learn more about trauma from our childhood, recent science studies shows us trauma is passed down through the generations. This is important because safe, loving connections helps reduce the effects of trauma on our psyche and can be healed with EFT Couples Therapy. This article by Scientific American helps us better understand the impact trauma has on us, and on our future generations and how best to reduce it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.