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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy: A Clinical Example

My prior article about EFT couple therapy, What Happens During Stage One of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT)?, described what happens during Stage One of EFT couple counseling.  In the current article, I'm providing a fictional clinical vignette to illustrate how EFT couple therapy works during Stage One.

Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy: A Clinical Example

Also, see my articles:
Fictional Clinical Vignette: Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy
The following fictional clinical vignette illustrates how an EFT couple therapist works with a couple during Stage One of couple therapy:

Ted and Rita
After being married for five years, Ted and Rita began EFT couple therapy when Rita discovered that Ted was having a six month affair with his ex-girlfriend.  When Rita confronted Ted with the email that she found on his computer, he reluctantly acknowledged the affair and asked Rita to go to couple therapy.

During their first session, Rita told the EFT couple therapist that she was very hurt and, after she discovered the email, she asked Ted to move out of their apartment for a few weeks to give her time to think things over.  Subsequently, she agreed to attend couple therapy on the condition that Ted contact the other woman in front of Rita to tell her that the affair was over, which he did.

When they began couple therapy, Ted had moved back into the apartment that he shared with Rita, but they were sleeping in separate rooms.  Ted was clear that he wanted to salvage their relationship, but Rita said she wasn't sure.  She didn't know if she could ever trust Ted again, but she was willing to attend couple therapy in order to explore her feelings and determine if she wanted to save the marriage (see my article: Infidelity: Should You Stay or Should You Go? and Coping With Betrayal: Learning to Trust Again).

During Stage One of EFT couple therapy, the couple therapist determined that Rita was normally the one in the relationship who, until recently, was the pursuer.  She was the one who usually wanted to talk to Ted when there were problems in the relationship.  Normally, she would explore problems from every angle in order to try to resolve their differences.

Ted, on the other hand, was usually the more avoidant one.  He was the withdrawer in the relationship.  Rather than explore their everyday problems, he usually withdrew into silence.  He especially disliked when Rita wanted to talk to him about problems when he got home from work.  He preferred to withdraw into his home office for a while before confronting any problems.

Ted's withdrawal often left Rita feeling sad and abandoned, and she often pursued Ted even more when he withdrew.  When Ted refused to talk, Rita would become angry and critical of Ted.  She felt that his withdrawal meant that he didn't care about her.

Their EFT couple therapist discovered that the more Rita pursued Ted, the more he withdrew, and they were caught in a negative dynamic of pursuer-withdrawer that continued to perpetuate their problems.

From Rita's perspective, the worst thing that Ted could do was withdraw from her.  Because of her family history, which included emotional abandonment by both of her parents, Rita often felt emotionally abandoned by Ted when he avoided her.

From Ted's usual perspective, Rita made too big an issue of their everyday problems.  He grew up in a home where his mother was frequently critical of his father, and he hated their confrontations when he was growing up, so he hated feeling criticized by Rita.

Their EFT couple therapist recognized that it was important to determine Rita and Ted's usual dynamic before Rita discovered the affair--especially since Ted was now the one who was more motivated to be in couple therapy than Rita.

When they talked about Ted's affair, he told the couple therapist that he felt criticized and unappreciated by Rita when he began the affair.  He said he ran into his ex one lunch hour, and what began as a friendly lunch escalated into a full blown sexual affair within a short period of time (see my article: The Connection Between Infidelity and the Need to Feel Desirable).

Ted was clear that his affair with his ex wasn't important to him, and he felt deep remorse that it had hurt Rita and affected their marriage.  He said this was the only time that he had an affair in his five years of marriage, and he would do anything if he could go back in time and undo the damage that it had done.

As part of Stage One, the EFT therapist assessed the relationship, determined the negative cycle and attachment issues and helped Rita and Ted to de-escalate their conflict, focus on the negative cycle in their relationship and try to regain trust.

After several sessions, Rita agreed that she wanted to try to save the marriage and she was committed to remaining in couple therapy.  She stopped criticizing Ted, and Ted was able to open up more to her.

Rita was able to tell Ted in their couple therapy that she feared being abandoned by him, and the affair only exacerbated her fears.  For his part, Ted was able to tell Rita that he felt like "a loser" in her eyes and that, prior to the discovery of the affair, he felt Rita no longer cared about him.

By the end of Stage One, Rita and Ted both recognized that they were each committed to the marriage.

Having completed Stage One of EFT couple therapy, Rita and Ted were now ready to enter into Stage 2: Restructuring the Bond of the Relationship.

Conclusion
As illustrated in the fictional clinical vignette above, during Stage One of EFT couple therapy, the following steps, which are part of the initial stage of EFT, were completed:
  • 1. Assessment
  • 2. Identification of the negative cycle/attachment issues
  • 3. Accessing underlying attachment emotions
  • 4. Framing the problem as part of the cycle, attachment needs/fear
In the next article, I'll focus on Stage Two of EFT couple therapy, Restructuring the Bond, using the same fictional couple to illustrate how EFT therapy works.

Getting Help in EFT Couple Therapy
EFT couple therapy has been researched and found to be one of the most effective forms of couple therapy.

If you and your spouse or partner are struggling in your relationship, you owe it to your relationship to get help from an experienced couple therapist.

Rather than continuing to perpetuate a negative cycle, which is damaging your relationship, you will learn in EFT couple therapy how to identify and change this negative cycle so you can have a happier relationship (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and EFT couple therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.















Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What Happens During Stage One of Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples (EFT)?

In previous articles that I've written about Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), I provided an overview of EFT.  See my articles:

What Happens in Stage One of Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples (EFT)?
In this article, I'm focusing specifically on what happens in Stage One of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy.

A Closer Look at Stage One (De-escalation) of EFT Couple Therapy:

     The Therapeutic Alliance
During Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy, the EFT counselor works to form a therapeutic alliance with each partner in the relationship.  This is an essential part of any therapy because if clients don't feel comfortable with the therapist, they're not going to open up and problems won't be resolved.

It's not unusual for each member of a couple to come to couple therapy with various feelings of fear, ambivalence, hopelessness, defiance, hope, dread and many other feelings.

Sometimes, one person is more motivated to engage in couple therapy than the other.  Since it's important for both people to be engaged in the therapy before the work begins, a skilled EFT couple therapist can help each person to feel safe and more open about the process.

It's important for both people to be able to speak about their concerns about starting couple therapy, especially if they attempted it in the past or had negative experiences with a psychotherapist (see my article: What is the Negative Transference in Psychotherapy?).

     The EFT Counselor Assesses the Negative Cycle in the Relationship
Each couple, who have ongoing problems, usually has a negative cycle that they get stuck in.

During Phase One of EFT, the EFT couple therapist assesses the couple's negative cycle by listening for certain dynamics in the relationship as each person talks about his or her perspective of the problems.

The negative cycle keeps the couple looping around in a dynamic where they can't find a way out.  Instead of resolving their problems, the couple remains in this same dynamic and their problems continue to escalate.

Many relationships, which could have been salvaged if the couple understood their negative dynamic and how to change it, end because one or both people feel defeated by their inability to make changes in the relationship.

Once the EFT couple therapist recognizes the negative dynamic and presents it to the couple in an empathic way, the couple have an opportunity to explore whether the couple therapist's assessment resonates with them or if the assessment needs more fine tuning.

Being able to look at the negative dynamic in their relationship is often an eye-opening experience for both people in the relationship.  They have an opportunity to look at their own contribution to the dynamic, their partner's contribution, and how it all comes together to keep them stuck.

Rather than blaming each other for their problems, the couple can focus on making changes with the help of the couple therapist.

In most relationships, there is one person who is considered the "pursuer" and another person who is considered the "withdrawer."  Generally speaking, in a heterosexual relationship, the woman is usually the "pursuer" and the man is usually the "withdrawer."

That being said, there can also be two "pursuers" and two "withdrawers"--whether it's a heterosexual, gay or transgender couple.

     What is a "Pursuer" in a Relationship?
"Pursuers"usually try to manage the relationship through approach and repetition.  They're usually the ones who point out that there are problems in the relationship and they prefer to address the problems rather than avoid them.  They often try repeatedly to express their perspective of the problem from different angles to try to engage their partners in a conversation.  They're the ones who usually ask repeatedly for clarifications and justifications.  If they're unable to get what they consider a satisfactory response from the partner, they become frustrated and often criticize and blame the partner.

     What is a "Withdrawer" in a Relationship?
"Withdrawers" often get defensive with the "pursuers'" repeated demands and criticism.  This usually leads "withdrawers" to withdraw emotionally and often physically.  As the "pursuer" becomes more and more frustrated and angry, the disagreements escalate, and as this occurs "withdrawers" often withdraw even more.  Then, this becomes part of their negative cycle.
       
     The "Pursuer" in the Relationship Begins to Experience Underlying Emotions
It's essential for the couple to complete Stage One of EFT before going onto Stages Two and Three.  As previously mentioned, Stage One presents the first opportunity for change to occur.

One of the things that usually happens in Stage One that can lead to change is that the person who is the "pursuer" experiences his or her deep, underlying emotions, which often include fear of abandonment (see my article:   How Psychotherapy Can Help You to Overcome Fear of Abandonment).

In other words, rather than just focusing on his or her anger, with the help of the EFT therapist, the "pursuer" recognizes that underneath the anger, s/he is fearful that the other partner will leave.

The "pursuer" recognizes that, in the past, prior to EFT Couple Therapy, unaware of and/or unable to express this fear of abandonment, the "pursuer" continued the approach and repetition, the same dynamics that cause the "withdrawer" to feel defensive and to withdraw.

What Happens in Stage One of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT)?
The EFT couple therapist helps the "pursuer" to feel safe enough to tap into and express these more vulnerable emotions, and the "withdrawer" can see that, beyond the blaming and criticism, the "pursuer" is fearful.  This provides an opportunity for both people to see the underlying dynamics.

If the "withdrawer" feels safer after hearing that the partner is fearful, this provides a chance for the "withdrawer" to be less withdrawn and open up to his or her emotions rather than defensively withdrawing.  This usually allows for beginning of a de-escalation of the couple's conflicts.

I'll continue to address these issues and Stages Two and Three in EFT Couple Therapy in future articles.

See my articles:
Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy: A Clinical Example
What Happens During Stage Two of EFT Couple Therapy?


Getting Help in EFT Couples Therapy
If you and your spouse or partner would like to salvage your relationship, you could both benefit from attending EFT Couples Therapy.

Rather than continuing to struggle with the same negative dynamic, you can both learn to recognize the pattern and change it so you can have a happier relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EFT Couple Therapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with adult individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.












Monday, July 16, 2018

What is Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples (EFT)?

Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, also known as EFT, was primarily developed by Canadian psychologist, Dr. Sue Johnson in the 1980s (see my articles: EFT Couple Therapy - Overcoming the Negative Dynamic in Your Relationship That Keeps You StuckEFT Couple Counseling: New Bonding Can Replace a Negative Cycle in Your Relationship and How EFT Couple Therapy Can Help You to Improve Your Relationship).

Dr. Johnson established The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) in 1998, and the center provides training for psychotherapists in EFT.  There is also an EFT Center in Greater New York (NYCEFT).  EFT is now being used internationally in psychotherapists' offices, hospitals, clinics and in other therapeutic centers around the world.
What is Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples (EFT)?

EFT draws on attachment theory, which focuses on the earliest relationship between caregiver and baby, and also the enduring emotional bond between adults.

EFT is also based on Carl Rogers' person-centered psychotherapy, which takes an empathic stance in therapy.  In addition, EFT the theory of adult bonding to help couples understand their individual dynamics and the dynamics in their relationship, including whatever negative cycle they might have developed that keeps them stuck.

What Are the Stages in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT)?
There are three stages of EFT Couple Therapy:
  • Stage 1: De-Escalation:  As part of the first stage of EFT Couple Therapy, the EFT couple therapist begins by assessing the couple's interaction style, which cause conflicts.  She also helps the couple to identify the negative cycle/attachment emotions, and frames the problem based on the cycle, attachment needs and fears.
  • Stage 2: Restructuring the Bond and Changing Interaction Patterns:  During the second stage of EFT Couple Therapy, the EFT therapist assists each person in the relationship to voice his or her attachment needs and deep emotions.  The EFT therapist coaches each person on how to express acceptance and compassion for the other partner's attachment needs and deep emotions.  Each member of the couple is also coached in how to express his or her own attachment needs and emotions and how to discuss the issues that are causing conflicts.
  • Stage 3: Consolidation:  The EFT couple therapist coaches the couple on how to use new communication styles to talk about their problems and come up with new solutions.  The couple also learns to use the skills they learned in EFT couple therapy so they create and use new interaction patterns after they leave EFT couple therapy.

Conclusion
EFT Couple Therapy is a well-researched method that helps couples to improve their relationship.  It has been studied extensively and shown to be effective.

What is Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT)?

Generally speaking, EFT is a short-term couple therapy model.

EFT Couple Therapy was developed by Sue Johnson, and it is based on attachment theory, Rogerian therapy, and a theory of adult bonding.

There are three stages in EFT (as presented above).

Although the stages are presented in a linear way in this article, in reality, just like any other form of therapy, the process isn't always linear.

Since the couple is coached to identify and change the negative cycle in their relationship, they learn to stop blaming each other.  Instead, they learn that there are "no bad guys"--just a negative cycle that they can learn to change.

For more information about EFT Couple Therapy, see Sue Johnson's book, Hold Me Tight.

Getting Help For Your Relationship in EFT Couple Therapy
If you and your spouse or partner are stuck in a negative dynamic, you owe it to yourself to get help from an EFT couple therapist.

Your EFT couple therapist can help you to restructure the bond in your relationship so you change the negative cycle, express your emotional needs and gain acceptance compassion for your partner's and your own emotional needs.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, EFT couple therapist, EMDR therapist, hypnotherapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

Also see my articles:
What Happens in Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy?
Stage One of EFT Couple Therapy: A Clinical Example
EFT Couple Counseling Helps Couples to Move Beyond Reactive Emotions and Destructive Arguing Cycles
What Happens During Stage Two of EFT Couple Therapy?
Stage Two of EFT Couple Counseling: A Clinical Example
Why Does EFT For Couples Focus on Emotions?
EFT For Couples: The Importance of Primary Emotions to Improve Your Relationship















Saturday, July 7, 2018

EFT Couple Counseling: New Bonds of Love Can Replace a Negative Cycle in a Relationship

I began discussing EFT couple therapy in my previous two articles (see my articles: EFT Couple Therapy: Overcoming the Negative Dynamic in Your Relationship That Keeps You Both Stuck and How EFT Couple Therapy Can Help Improve Your Relationship).  In this article, I'm focusing specifically on how EFT couple therapy can help couples to replace negative cycles with new ways of bonding.

EFT Couple Counseling: New Bonds of Love Can Replace a Negative Cycle in a Relationship

Negative cycles are often difficult for a couple to see on their own. But when an EFT couple therapist assesses a couple, she can eventually identify the negative cycle and help the couple to change it so that they can learn new ways of bonding together.

Fictional Clinical Vignette: Developing New Ways of Bonding in EFT Couple Therapy
The following fictional clinical vignette illustrates how an EFT couple therapist can help a couple to recognize the negative cycle that they're stuck in and help the couple to stop the negative cycle so they can develop a new way of bonding together:

Ann and Tom
After 10 years of marriage, Ann and Tom were locked into an ongoing emotional battle where each of  them felt unloved and unappreciated by the other.

Ann explained to their EFT couple therapist that they had talked about the possibility of divorce, but they wanted to try to see if they could salvage their marriage, especially since they had two young children.

She said that problems began about five years into their marriage when their first son was born.  Tom had just started his own consulting business, and Ann had taken off time from her career to raise their son.

With stressors related to a new business and raising a young child, they began to drift apart.  They were frequently exhausted and their sex life had waned.  Tom said that Ann was a wonderful mother to their son, but she hardly ever wanted to take time for just the two of them.

He said he tried numerous times to persuade Ann to leave their son with her mother so they could go on vacation together and rekindle their relationship, but she refused to do it.  Eventually, he got tired of trying to persuade her, he threw himself into his work, and they continued to drift apart (see my article: Telltale Signs That You and Your Spouse Are Drifting Apart).

A few months prior to coming to couple therapy, Tom told Ann he felt like he was living with a roommate.  He told her that they were still young enough to start their lives over, and he broached the topic of divorce.  Shocked and upset, Ann told Tom that it would be devastating for their children if they got a divorce, and she wanted to see if they could save their marriage, which was what brought them into EFT couple therapy.

As the EFT couple therapist listened to each of them talk about their relationship history, it was clear to her that, in the past, Tom had been the pursuer in the relationship, and Ann had been the withdrawer.  Tom had been the one who was reaching out to Ann earlier in their marriage, and Ann withdrew emotionally from Tom.

By the time they came for couple therapy, they both appeared to be withdrawn and exhausted.  The EFT couple therapist noted that they hardly looked at each other when they spoke and neither of them made an effort to connect with a look or a touch.  And yet here they were seeking help in therapy.

When the EFT couple therapist asked what attracted each of them to the other  when they first met, Tom said how attracted he was to Ann when they first met in a college class.  He was drawn to her passion and enthusiasm in the class, and he eventually asked her out on a date.  Ann said she was drawn to Tom's good looks and how he made her laugh when they went out.

As they spoke about their relationship history, the EFT couple therapist noticed each of them come alive momentarily, and she commented on it.  For the first time in the session, Tom reached over to Ann, but Ann looked away and Tom withdrew his hand.

When the EFT couple therapist pointed out this interaction and asked Ann how she experienced it, Ann said that she felt emotionally numb.  She said it had been so long since they had touched one another in any way that she felt uncomfortable.  She said, even though she wanted her marriage to work out, she felt a sense of helplessness and almost hopelessness about it.

As the EFT couple therapist helped Ann and Tom to identify their negative cycle, which included Tom making gestures for connection and Ann pulling away, they both agreed that this was their negative dynamic, and they didn't know how to change it.

Over time, with the EFT couple therapist's help, Ann began to express her emotional vulnerability with caution, and Tom listened and felt more compassionate towards Ann.  She said that, after their first child was born, she felt Tom was making emotional demands of her that she couldn't fulfill, and she felt like a failure as a wife.

After their second child was born, Ann said, she felt that Tom's suggestion that they take time apart from their children felt impossible for her.  At the time, she didn't want to leave them in the care of her mother to go away with Tom, and this was the source of frequent arguments between them--until Tom buried himself in his work and Ann became more involved in their children's activities.

They were each able to see how they had gotten to this point after Ann withdrew emotionally and Tom became more resentful, distant and stopped trying to get closer to Ann.

With the help of the EFT couple therapist, each of them began to take small steps to allow themselves to be more open and vulnerable with each other and, slowly, things began to change as they developed a new emotional bond.

Conclusion
In most relationships where the couple is having problems, there is often a negative cycle in the relationship where there is a pursuer and a withdrawer.  After being immersed in this negative cycle for a while, the pursuer might also eventually withdraw emotionally until the couple drifts apart.  Without help, a couple who is stuck in a negative cycle often continues to drift apart until the relationship ends.

With help in EFT couple therapy, a couple can begin to identify their negative cycle and make small gestures to change.  It can take a while for each person in the relationship to trust again to be able to be emotionally vulnerable.

The role of the EFT couple therapist is to help the couple see their negative cycle and develop new ways of bonding.

Getting Help With EFT Couple Therapy
Many couples who are stuck in a negative cycle are helped by EFT couple therapy to learn new ways of relating so they can bond emotionally again.

If you and your spouse are having problems in your relationship, you owe it to yourself and your relationship to get help.

Rather than continuing to drift apart, getting help in EFT couple therapy could save your relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, Somatic Experiencing and EFT couple therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped many people to improve their relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.















Monday, July 2, 2018

How EFT Couple Therapy Can Help Improve Your Relationship

In my prior article,  EFT Couples Therapy: Overcoming the Negative Dynamic in Your Relationship That Keeps You Both Stuck, I began a discussion about how Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) helps couples to overcome the negative cycle that they're stuck in.  In this article, I'm continuing the discussion about EFT and how it can help to improve your relationship.

How EFT Couples Therapy Can Help Improve Your Relationship

EFT couples therapy recognizes that couples often get caught up in a negative cycle and that they are often unaware of this cycle.  During the initial stage of EFT couples therapy, the EFT therapist is assessing, among other things, the type of negative cycle that the couple is stuck in.

EFT Couples Therapy and the Negative Cycle
The negative cycle usually involves each individual in the relationship aware of their secondary emotions (e.g., anger, frustration), but unaware of their primary emotions (e.g., sadness).  The secondary emotions usually function as defenses against experiencing the emotional vulnerability involved with the primary emotions.

For instance, many people feel more comfortable experiencing the secondary emotion of anger rather than allowing them to experience the primary emotion of sadness, which underlies their anger.

It's not that the secondary emotion isn't real--far from it.  The anger is real, but if each individual in the couple only allows him or herself to experience the anger, s/he will remain stuck in anger rather than recognizing the sadness s/he feels about problems in the relationship.

Getting to the primary emotions in EFT allow the couple to move beyond arguing and blaming so that they can express their unmet emotional needs to each other.

At that point, the couple usually feels more motivated to work on their relationship.  They also have something more substantial to work with to make changes in their relationship rather than just blaming each other or getting stuck in a blaming/withdrawing negative cycle (more about this below).

In order to get to the primary emotions, the EFT couples therapist needs to develop a therapeutic alliance with each person in the couple so each of them feels comfortable enough to open up.  Developing this alliance can take a while, and it will be different for each person in the relationship.

Once the therapist and the clients have a good therapeutic alliance, the couple is usually more willing to look at their negative cycle.

Roles in a Relationship: Pursuer/Blamer and Withdrawer
As I mentioned in my prior article, a common dynamic in relationships is for one person to be the pursuer/blamer and the other person to be the withdrawer.

The pursuer/blamer is usually the one who is most vocal about the problems in the relationship.  After the couple has been in a negative cycle for a while, the pursuer/blamer often comes across as being angry and critical.  The more s/he feels ignored by the spouse, the more the pursuer escalates the pursuing and the blaming in order to get his or her partner's attention.

The pursuer's intention is usually not to blame or cause an argument--although that's what it usually looks like to the other spouse.  His or her intention, as previously mentioned, is to change the dynamic in the relationship, but his or her emotions are being expressed in a way that usually alienates the spouse.  As a result, the other spouse often withdraws emotionally and, at times, physically.

As part of the cycle, when the other spouse withdraws, the pursuer will pursue/blame even more to try to reach the spouse who has withdrawn.  This, of course, usually leads to the person who has withdrawn to withdraw even further, and the cycle continues to perpetuate itself.

Often, from the pursuer's perspective, if s/he hopes that if s/he escalates his or her demands and says it loud enough, the other spouse will hear it and respond. But this usually doesn't work.

From the perspective of the person who withdraws, s/he feels frustrated.  Frustration is his or her secondary emotion, the emotion that is closest to the surface.

Often, the louder and more blaming and persistent his or her spouse becomes, the more helpless and hopeless the withdrawer feels.  After a while, the withdrawer might feel that the spouse thinks s/he can't do anything right--so why even try?

As the withdrawer continues to withdraw even more, usually, from the pursuer's perspective, the withdrawer doesn't care.  S/he interprets the withdrawal to mean that the withdrawer is emotionally indifferent because this is how it appears from the outside.

But the withdrawer's internal emotional experience is usually very different.  Far from being indifferent, s/he might feel afraid and hopeless.

Obviously, not every couple fits neatly into the pursuer/withdrawer roles, but the vast majority of couples do.

This negative cycle is unsustainable long term.  It often leads to divorce--even in couples who, underneath it all, really love each other.  After a while, one or both of them finds the cycle unbearable and, not knowing what else to do, want out of the relationship.

Aside from the damage which this cycle does to each person in the relationship, without help, each individual usually brings his or her part of the dynamic into the next relationship and it starts all over again with the next person after a while.

In my next article, I'll provide a fictional clinical vignette which shows how EFT couples therapy helps couples to recognize their negative cycle and find healthier ways of relating to each other.

Conclusion
Over the last 30 years, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) has been a well-researched form of couples therapy that gets to the underlying issues that are causing problems in a relationship.

Rather than focusing on skills, like communication skills, EFT couples therapy recognizes that each couple that comes for help has a negative cycle which keeps them stuck, and they're unable to get to their unmet attachment needs satisfied in the relationship.

How EFT Couples Therapy Can Help Improve Your Relationship
Identifying the cycle and helping each individual in the relationship to discover the primary emotions that aren't being expressed is a significant part of the EFT couples therapist's role in couples therapy.

It's important for each individual in the couple to feel safe with the EFT therapist in order to allow him or herself to be emotionally vulnerable enough to move beyond surface emotions.

As part of developing emotional safety, the EFT couples therapist helps each individual in the couple to develop a therapeutic alliance with the therapist.

Another way that the EFT couples therapist helps the couple is by stressing that there are "no bad guys" in their relationship.  So, rather than blaming each other, they focus on the negative cycle and how they can change it with the help of the couples therapist.

EFT couples therapy has various stages that the therapist helps each individual in the couple to get through until they're able to meet each other's emotional needs.

Like most therapy, progress in EFT couples therapy isn't a linear process.  Even after each individual allows him or herself to be vulnerable enough to express his or her unmet emotional needs, one or both individuals often initially go back to old ways of relating that were part of the negative cycle--until the change is consolidated in couples therapy.

Getting Help in EFT Couples Therapy
There are no "magic bullets" in couples therapy (or in any therapy), but EFT couples therapy has been proven to be an effective form of couples therapy based on 30 years of research and follow up with couples after therapy has ended.

Admitting that there is a problem in your relationship and being willing to get help is the first step in improving your relationship.

Rather than remaining stuck in a negative cycle that's destroying your relationship, you and your spouse owe it to yourselves to improve your relationship with EFT.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individuals and couples, and I am trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.