Couples counseling can be challenging, exciting, and rewarding for both the clinician and the couple. There are many models of therapy that help therapists guide couples through the process of change. I utilize a well-researched model called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), which was developed in the 1980s by Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Leslie Greenberg. EFT is based on attachment science and incorporates elements from various therapeutic approaches, including humanistic, experiential, and systemic approaches. In this therapy, the therapist’s role is not to teach problem-solving strategies but rather to de-emphasize the content of the disagreement and focus as much if not more on how the disagreement is playing out.
One foundational aspect of attachment theory is that humans are naturally inclined to seek emotional and physical closeness during times of distress. Couples often seek therapy when their attempts to connect with each other repeatedly fail over time, leading to a repetitive pattern of reactive behavior. Instead of sharing their deepest feelings, couples engage in a dysfunctional dance of reaction. EFT helps couples identify this cycle, interrupt it, and create new experiences of emotional connection with their partners.
In each therapy session, I approach you not as an all-knowing expert, but as a fellow human being attempting to navigate the complexities of intimate relationships. This approach is rooted in humanistic principles. While I have specialized skills and knowledge of the EFT model, I believe that couples are the true experts on their own relationship and internal world. Throughout each session, I actively observe and listen for emotional cues, both verbal and non-verbal. I process in real-time what is happening in the therapy room. This experiential aspect of EFT allows us to move beyond discussing complex thoughts and emotions and experience them together during the session.
EFT is systemic in that every couple has predictable patterns when they argue. There is a limited number of ways they can respond during conflict. I will map out these patterns for you, highlighting how each repetition of the cycle reinforces itself. During our sessions, I will encourage you to pay attention to the emotions, thoughts, or bodily sensations that arise as we discuss matters in the counseling room. I will help you organize and understand these experiences. I may also ask you to share your experiences with your partner through an enactment, which is a key method of change in EFT. This approach enables you to cultivate vulnerability with your partner, rather than just with me. Initially, many couples feel resistant to the idea of turning towards each other and sharing in the session. It may feel forced and awkward at first, but the research and my practice indicate that this approach is effective.
As couples therapy progresses, you will feel more connected to your partner. You will experience your partner as more accessible, emotionally engaged, and responsive to your vulnerability. Similarly, your partner will experience you in a similar manner. When this shift occurs, couples become better equipped to solve their own problems. I am always amazed by the creative solutions that couples come up with when they approach life with a united heart and two minds. Couples will always disagree and have conflict. My desire for you as a couple is to learn to effectively interrupt conflict and work through it more efficiently, all while sharing what lies at the heart of the disagreement.
If you have any questions or if you believe that EFT would be a good approach for you, please do not hesitate to contact us.