Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Emotionally Focused Therapy

I just finished a training for couple therapists called Emotionally Focused Therapy or EFT. It was an illuminating experience both personally and professionally. I am so eager to work with more couples and share this revolutionary relationship work.
Couples each have a dance they do when they are disconnected. The dance happens because each person triggers the others' unmet needs from childhood. This dance usually involves one person being critical and the other withdrawing. When couples do this dance long enough they lose the sense of feeling safe with each other and stop confiding in each other. The first stage of EFT is to become away of the steps in each couples' unique dance. The couple learns to let go of blaming each other and to directly address together the moves in their dance.  Both people are hungry for connection with their own special person, the one to whom they used to feel shielded from the storm, yet they are stuck in familiar uncomfortable patterns. EFT is called emotionally focused therapy because the therapist creates a safe space for couples to share their deep feelings of wanting to connect with each other and how painful it is to be disconnected. It gives couples the opportunity to learn how to show up for each other and create a safe sanctuary. It allows each person to experience the magic of both people being openhearted at the same time. The therapist creates a safe space for the withdrawer to re-engage and the pursuer to soften. Out of this process, the couple can create new moves that are more affirming and validating to each other. Unmet needs from the past can be met in the present. Research has shown that the changes are lasting.
It was so awesome for me to participate in this training. Each day we did role plays where two people played a couple and one person played the therapist. The others in the small group observed. There was a more experienced EFT therapist to coach the trainee. When I played part of the couple I was amazed at how the person that was playing my husband seemed to be exactly like my partner. I learned from my pretend husband how my criticism or what he called poking felt to him. I learned how he longed to feel connected to me and accepted by me. I could feel his pain about wanting to be good enough for me and feeling like he never quite got there. I could see how when my anxiety rises because I don't feel connected to my partner I find something to complain about to get attention. I went home to Gary with a deeper understanding of how what I do when I am scared of being abandoned impacts him. I could cut us both some slack about the moves in our dance. This training has helped me to be more authentic about what I want and need instead of being so critical about what is missing. In turn that has enabled Gary to be less defensive and more engaged in connecting with me. It is starting to feel safer to be close to each other. This weekend there was more space for our love to shine through. I am so grateful  for the opportunity to be part of the EFT community and to continue to learn and grow. I share the vision of creating a safe space for couples to compassionately turn toward each other for comfort and connection, thus creating a safe harbor to integrate  unmet needs from the past, in the present. Woo hoo! If you know anyone who would benefit from this work please send them my way! Thanks, Andrea