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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.

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 (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.