Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples

EFT is a short term approach to helping distressed couples. It was developed by leading Canadian psychologists, Dr. Susan Johnson and Dr. Leslie Greenberg. There are 3 steps in EFT which can be accomplished in 12 to 30 sessions. These lead as many as 70% of couples to experience positive change in their communication and help them to, once again, focus on a rewarding and fulfilling relationship.

In spite of loving each other, you and your partner can get caught in unhealthy communication or behaviour patterns to the point of feeling that you are completely stuck. You might find that you are having the same arguments time and time again. Or perhaps you avoid difficult conversations because you’re afraid of starting a fight.

Marital distress affects most couples at various times throughout the relationship. The key to managing the distress is in being aware that the distress is temporary, and that more often than not, there is a safe and secure way through the distress that serves to bring the couple closer. Problems arise when couples start to rely on the feelings and thoughts that are triggered by the particular distress. This internal state, once it becomes repetitive, is then used as a basis for forming judgements about the relationships. The feelings and thoughts become overwhelming, and we then blame our partner for "causing" these feelings.

What's really happening in the relationship is that we no longer feel safe. We no longer feel willing to become vulnerable, to drop our defenses. We are feeling as though our feelings have been hurt too many times. We believe that our partner is making empty promises, and that they have no intention of changing. It typically takes couples about six months to a year to get to this point. Couples will then languish in this state for another year or two before realizing they either need therapy or they simply need to break up.

Stage 1: Tracking your communication patterns

This helps you to:

    * Recognize trigger points
    * Explore and understand the basis for the triggers
    * Unlatch from rigid unhealthy patterns of behaviour
    * Diffuse conflict
    * Recognize your partner is not the enemy; the two of you are struggling together

You and your therapist will track your interactions with your partner and identify where and how your communication breaks down. When you discover how each of you contributes to the pattern, you realize that your partner is not your enemy. Through marriage counseling you will recognize that you both make mistakes and misunderstand one another. You are both struggling to be understood, but are just not managing to reach each other.

Recognizing how you get pulled into your negative patterns of interaction is the first step to changing them. As you and your partner become aware of when you get stuck in your patterns, you can then discover how to help each other unlatch from them.

Stage 2: Creating a new, positive pattern of communication

This helps you to:

    * Communicate your emotions effectively
    * Create an intimate, secure bond
    * Feel cared for and loved by one another

Relationships evoke a host of feelings: joy, pleasure, anger, hurt, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, insecurity… even if you don’t think of yourself as an emotional person. You need to find a way to let your partner know how you are feeling in the relationship in order to have a healthy bond.

In Stage 2 of EFT you will build on the platform of connection you established in the first stage of therapy.
Your therapist will help you develop new ways of expressing yourself that don’t evoke your triggers and set off the old negative patterns.

Whether you struggle to communicate your feelings or you think of yourself as highly expressive, you can discover how to express yourself in a way that maximizes the chances of your partner responding to your needs and wants.

Stage 3: Applying new communication patterns to contentious issues of the past

This helps you to:

    * Strengthen the new patterns of communication by applying them to previously unresolved issues
    * Embrace new ways of connecting with each other emotionally and physically.
    * Prepare to end therapy with strategies to help you maintain your closeness.

Stage 3 of EFT involves reviewing any old remaining, problematic issues and working them through to resolution with your new found ways of communicating and connecting. Your therapist will also help you review the work you did through the course of therapy. Important steps you made along the way are identified and elaborated into strategies so that you can use them in the future and not revert back to your old, unhealthy ways of communicating.

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