Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)

EFT

It's all about emotional safety.

Most couples who come to therapy tell me that they need to work on improving their "communication." However, most of us were not taught that good communication is actually more than a behavioral skill.  Our work together will not be negotiating compromises or teaching empathy, it will be about breaking down barriers to feeling safe -- emotionally safe.

Your relationship is my client. In my eyes, each of you has a good reason for your behavior even if it isn't the most helpful for your relationship in the long run. There are reasons for both of your behaviors that make sense and part of my job is to help you uncover them. As we begin this process, uncomfortable emotions will inevitably emerge. I am not referring to anger or frustration; I am talking about the vulnerable emotions. The emotions that many partners rarely show each other like hurt, sadness, rejection, fear, etc. It is actually these types of emotions that fuel behaviors like being critical and sarcastic, or shutting down and walking away.

Here's the thing about emotions: they are signals that communicate with your mind, body, and social world. Emotions carry important information, ranging from love to survival. In the context of romantic relationships, EFT uses attachment theory as a map for understanding the ways in which emotions guide relationships and relationships shape our emotional experience (Bradley & Furrow, 2013). Attachment relationships are those that you turn to for security. They are formed throughout your life starting from infancy. The strength of an attachment bond is measured by a couple’s ability to remain emotionally engaged during stressful times and moments of uncertainty. Essentially it comes down to one question, “If I reach for you, will you be there for me?”

When a couple works together on an emotional level, they form a powerful connection. But in order to get there, it requires each partner to be vulnerable. The more each partner feels “met” by the other during these moments of vulnerability, the closer they become. BUT, it’s when one partner reaches for the other and they AREN’T met with the level of support or comfort they anticipated that the alarm bells start sounding “Danger!” So, they turn to alternative strategies for managing their distress. This can look like pleading for a response or just shutting down altogether. Distress in relationships so often plunges into inner chaos because we are wired to turn to our partners when distressed. Yet, when we perceive our partners to be the very source of our distress, we feel even more vulnerable and tormented. Over time, the more we feel “unmet” by our partners, the more we start to anticipate it. And the more we start to anticipate it, the more our defenses come up. This is what EFT refers to as a couple’s negative cycle.

Okay, so what does EFT do about this negative cycle?

The first stage of EFT is called “De-escalation.” This is where we will really break down your relationship’s negative cycle to understand each partner’s raw spots and core fears about the relationship. After meeting with you once or twice conjointly, I will ask to meet with each of you individually to learn about your family of origin and previous significant relationships. These sessions will be particularly helpful with uncovering each partner’s raw spots. We all have “raw” or “sensitive” spots because we all have wounds from the past. Yes, some wounds may be greater than others,  but they are experiences that shape how we see others and the world around us.

Once both of you start understanding what each of you experiences during your negative cycle, you will start seeing the cycle as the enemy as opposed to each other. In other words, it will be your relationship vs. your cycle instead of you two being on opposing sides. With a clear understanding of your cycle, we will move into a new stage that is focused on strengthening your relationship by creating new bonding moments. These bonding moments will give your relationship the tools to withstand life's greatest stressors. Your cycle will never completely go away because even with the best of intentions we end up hurting each other sometimes. But, you will have the emotional security and tools to prevent yourselves from getting stuck in your cycle.

 

 

 

 



1 Carriage Ln, Building B Suite 102
Charleston, SC 29407

drkatherineknies@gmail.com
(843) 636-3113

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Contact Information

1 Carriage Ln, Building B Suite 102 Charleston SC 29407
(843) 636-3113
drkatherineknies@gmail.com