Written by: Caitlin Edwards
One the most common questions I get from prospective clients is what does the process look like? In typical therapist fashion, it depends. As such, I often answer this question with follow up questions: What are your goals for therapy? How would you know that things between you and your partner have improved? Do you and your partner agree on what the problem is? If not, how do each of you conceptualize the problem? How much work are you each willing to put into the relationship?
Once these questions are answered, I can better explain what the process of therapy looks like for each couple. Although the therapeutic process looks different depending on a couple’s presenting problem and background, there are some general experiences which appear common for most couples that I see. Many of my clients report that they struggle communicating with one another and/or they struggle with repeating patterns of escalated experiences that devolve int
o disconnection rather than increased closeness a`nd connection. Fortunately, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can help couples both communicate in ways that improve mutual understanding as well as aid clients to understand and move out of their stuck places.
I try to act as a process consultant for my clients. I am there to join with you on your journey, not to be prescriptive. My clients are the expert on their relationship and, as their therapist, I want to help you to interact in a different way with each other than you have previously. I want to do my best to understand each member of a couple’s experiences so I can then help their partner understand and increase potential options for responding. Often, I see client’s become stuck in narrow ways of interacting with their partner and deepening mutual understanding can be a vehicle for more reflexive responses.
When I first meet with a couple, I desire to know their origin story. How did you meet? What initially drew you to one another? When have you felt most close and connected to your partner? By answering these questions, we can begin to understand what the two of you mean to each other as well as the type of interactions we want to re-create.
Another important aspect of couples therapy is discussing pivotal events in the relationship. What are these events? How did each partner experience them? How did they impact each of you both intra-personally and inter-personally?
Together, we explore the stuck places in your relationship. These stuck places are often marked by a cycle that blocks safety, care, and compassion. Each member of a couple often has their own triggers that pull them into this involuntary whirlwind. This reactive place often covers emotions that are either inaccessible or too dangerous to express. Together, create a safe enough place to discover, distill, and disclose these softer emotions, fears, and needs in your relationship. Sharing these previously unexpressed needs and fears will pull your partner closer to you, rather than pushing the two of you apart. This in turn will create more positive cycles. In positive cycles, you can expect to communicate in ways that feel mutually understanding and supportive.
But wait, why can’t we just have tools?
This is a common question in couples therapy. Many of the couples that I see desire tools to “fix” the problem or to “communicate better” with their partner. One of the aspects of EFT I appreciate is that learning tools is built into the process. So, instead of replicating a school-based model of lecture and homework, EFT is an experiential and dynamic in-session process in which you can learn how to communicate more constructively with your spouse in real time with a therapist to help guide you.
For more information on our services, click here: Couples Therapy