Read on to see how I work as a couple therapist. I also work with individuals and families. You can read more about how I help individuals and families to make the changes they are seeking on Who I Work With and on Couples Journeys to Happiness.
Benefits of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy
I do couple therapy from an Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) perspective. This is different than typical couple counselling. Rather than giving advice and strategies, that you may not follow, I help you open doors together to rediscover your feelings of love and to strengthen the bond between you.
Relationship advice and strategies for fair negotiation rarely stand up to the strong emotions that blow through couple relationships. During couple therapy, I will work with you to get to the heart of the matter: to that place where you each long to feel connected and fully acceptable to one another. I help you identify your raw spots and to face and change difficult and intense emotions, so that you can save your relationship and protect it for the future.
As a registered Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist, I am insightful and collaborative in working with you to identify the repeated ruts and patterns you are stuck in. Through couple counselling, I help you speak the language of the heart and find the safe haven of love. I help you transform blaming, scolding and silent behaviours that go with difficult emotions such as loneliness, hurt and fear, into tenderness and comfort. Together in couple counselling we can find the love, caring and fun that has been buried under your conflicts and lost in the distance between you.
In couple therapy, I connect with:
- the worth, dignity and goodness of you and your partner
- the potential you have to develop a nurturing and caring relationship
- the tender hearts behind the rigid and negative patterns that may have developed in your relationship
As a couple therapist, I believe:
- Relationships are the core of human experience
- Your relationship, regardless of how severe your problems are, has potential to become a safe and supportive base and comforting haven.
- Like most people who seek couple counselling, your troubled relationship is the result of a broken bond. You need to redevelop the love and trust that used to hold you together.
- Couples in distress are like two people lost in a dark wood without a sense of knowing how to find the other person’s loving heart, and believing that the other person no longer cares for them nor understands them.
You can foster and rebuild a secure, supportive relationship with the help of a coach or couple therapist who understands human bonds and how to work with negative emotions to create positive change.
Imagine that you and your partner sought me out for couple therapy. Our work together would go something like this:
1. Building Trust:
In our first couple counselling sessions, I will take time and care to develop comfort and rapport between us, by listening respectfully to each of your stories. I want to hear your hopes and concerns about your relationship.
2. Listening To Your Stories: The Problems and the Glue
I will take time to hear and deeply understand how each of you experiences your relationship. No doubt you will have quite different stories! You are likely both unhappy in different ways with how your relationship is going.
I will create a safe place to hear both your concerns and hopes for your relationship during our couple therapy sessions. In addition to hearing about what is not working in your relationship, I will invite you to describe how your relationship looks when you are feeling close and getting along well. What is the glue that is holding you together in spite of your struggles? We will discuss the following:
- When you are not getting along: Who does what?
In emotionally focused couple therapy the first step in getting out of your relationship distress, is being able to talk about what goes on when you are not getting along. I will ask you to tell me what happens when you fight or when you are not getting along. If you and your partner are like most unhappy couples, you are likely caught in repetitive cycles of negative interactions.
- Who typically starts a fight? Who is the first person to walk off? How do you usually make up again? How do you get close to each other? You will likely agree on a common pattern that occurs during times when things are not going well and also a pattern that occurs when you are getting along well. You may even agree on what each of you do that trigger each other’s unpleasant feelings and behaviours.
3. Discovering new stories: The aches and yearning that you never tell each other!
You may disagree or have never heard about the soft feelings, aches, yearnings and thoughts that go on inside for each of you during these never-ending negative ruts or cycles. During couples counselling, you may be quite surprised to hear about these! In fact, you have likely been so focused on defending or protecting yourselves that you may not be aware of your deeper struggles and longings until you have a safe place to explore them.
For example, you may have no idea that your partner who is angry and critical of you is longing for comfort and closeness with you because you are important to them! Or that your silent, withdrawn partner is actually longing to feel admired, appreciated and to feel and be “good enough” for you.
We take time in our couple counselling sessions for you to develop a clear understanding of the rut you have gotten yourselves stuck in, in your best attempts to stay connected with each other. We look at this vicious cycle of fighting or cold silences as the enemy you want to change. Together we explore your raw inner experiences and tender feelings beneath this negative dance. We discover how this dance is blocking you from meeting each other’s needs and feeling the comfort of your love for each other!
4. Change Begins!
You both recognize your repeating negative cycles as your best attempts to get close or to calm the relationship down. You begin to feel safe enough to tell each other what you are most afraid of and what you really need from each other. Your softer feelings towards each other begin to show. Your perceptions and experience of each other and of your relationship begin to shift. Your softer feelings become new music to dance to, and your old negative dance begins to change.
For example, if your partner used to be silent, sullen and withdrawn, he or she may begin to acknowledge being afraid of letting you down and actually feeling quite miserable and lonely. You will then get a glimpse into his or her tender, soft heart. If your partner who was constantly angry and critical can begin to share how lonely, sad and abandoned she feels, you are likely to begin to see that you are a lot more important to her than you thought.
5. Your New Dancing Together
Although your cycle may be different from the above example, your dance steps or ways of interacting with each other will begin to change in a more positive direction. Gradually a partner who had been holding back and being distant, feels comfortable to open up and move closer. In response to this new openness and accessibility, the partner who had been exasperated and critical, warms and softens.
The new cycle of seeking out and responding positively to your partner takes over and your relationship increasingly gets better. You comfortably communicate your needs to each other and find pleasure in meeting each other’s needs. A new dance of creating closeness and flowing freely together, begins.
See examples of couples positive change in Couples Journeys to Happiness.