Congratulations for taking the first step in seeking help for your relationship! Although you might be in great pain, we know that you are longing for deep emotional connection and to feel seen and loved by your partner. Even in hard times, couples can (re) create emotional connection and restore safety to the bond that connects them.
Couples and Emotionally-Focused Therapy
In our work with you, we will lean in on an approach called Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is a model suitable for couples who are experiencing unhappiness in their relationship, but still want to improve it. Often, couples find themselves stuck in a vicious and reciprocal negative cycle that they are unable to slow down. Although couples who are struggling think that either them or their partner are the problem, in reality, the problem is the vicious cycle between them. The cycle always follows the same sequence of steps, where each person, stuck in a self-protective mode, finds it hard to fulfill their emotional needs and those of their loved one. The more the vicious cycle goes "untamed", the more the couple feels emotional disconnected making them more reactive to one another; thus, re-activating the cycle over and over. The most evident expression of a "disconnection cycle" tends to be an argument that becomes heated, but it can also be present in a relationship where people don't fight at all. Being in a disconnected and vicious cycle feels like helplessness, loneliness, sadness, and for many anger too.
What can you expect from EFT
Normally, couples seek therapy after trying various strategies to stop the cycle and not being able to. Because the cycle creates a feeling of not being emotional safe, our role is to create a safe environment in the sessions where couples can start creating a joint effort against the cycle. In the first step of EFT, we will be tuning in to what happens to them when they are affected by the cycle, how it makes them react and feel, and how their reaction impacts their partner, and vice-versa. Understanding what and when the cycle is triggered, and how each person unwittingly contributes for its maintenance is the first step in reducing its power and opening the way to change.
In the second step, and after you have learned together how to fight against the negative cycle, couples are able to talk about issues in their relationship, that either led to the cycle being created or issues created by the cycle per se, without the cycle being activated. Or, if it is activated couples are able to de-escalate it and keep the lines of connection open. At this stage, couples tend to reach out to the other person and ask for what they need and the other person tends to respond in an engaged, responsive and emotionally available manner. This allows couples to create a close and trustful bond, thus, restoring emotional connection. In the last step of EFT, couples can expect a wrapping up and discussing how they will prioritize and take care of their relationship using their new found ways of deep connection.
We adopt a non-blaming approach to couple distress that validates each person's perspective and helps couples to send and receive clear emotional signals regarding their emotional needs and fears. Instead of simply working on communication skills that can sometimes feel like a "kick fix" to the situation, EFT aims to help couples to see their vicious cycle and exit it by sending more clear messages about emotional needs in ways that do not trigger the defenses and fears of their partner.
When couples therapy is not recommended
There are a few situations when couple therapy is not recommended:
1. if there is on-going domestic violence (i.e., one partner is clearly a victim and the other is a perpetrator who induces fear and control over the other partner);
2. if one or both partners are having an on-going affair. Couple therapy is possible when the affair is terminated.
3. if one or both partners are struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
Do you want to know more? Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book and Podcasts Recommended
Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
Love Secret by Sue Johnson
Tatkin, Stan (2013). Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships. Sounds True (Audio book CD format)
The Relationship Show with Naomi Rather and Deborah Curtis (podcast)
Foreplay Radio with George Faller (podcast)