What is couples counselling anyway and how does it work?
At CoupleWorks our couples counselling, or Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), is a specialized process that seeks to first identify the patterns of relating and communicating that are getting in the way of a deeper bond, to make sense of them, and then to update them.
It turns out what doesn't tend to work in our closest relationships is learning communication techniques and negotiation strategies before we've gotten to the heart of the matter. When we're triggered by our most important other, they all go out the window! Our loved one can bring out the very worst and the very best in us. EFT works to take all of those feelings and to practice using them. It's not feelings that sabotage our relationships - it's what happens when we don't know how to 'drive' them and they end up driving us. EFT is all about learning how to drive our feelings and to use them to build a better bond.
It's very normal to be apprehensive about seeing a marriage counsellor! There's a variety of reasons why you might prefer to be doing just about anything else - some common ones are shown below:
OK, here's will happen when you come in for couples therapy:
Firstly, we'll spend just a little time going over some paperwork to reassure you about some of the important legal stuff – confidentiality, your options and rights; what you might reasonably expect and how much this will cost. It's important that you feel all of your questions and concerns are heard and addressed and you know exactly what to expect. Ask as many as you need to to feel comfortable and in control.
Then for the remainder of the first visit – we begin to assess what's going on for you. You begin to tell the story of your relationship and I'll ask a bunch of questions. Please don't ever worry about what to say – this is your story and nobody knows you better than you do. For some, this is quite painful and difficult. Others find it reassuring and enjoyable. There is no right or wrong way to tell your story.
Thirdly, we'll each meet one-on-one. This is an important part of the assessment process, and can be done either as the second session split in two, or we can each meet for a whole session - session two and three (your choice). By now, we'll have enough information to know if the process of couples therapy is the best option for you.
Once that's agreed, we will meet together for regular, weekly sessions. We may occasionally schedule individual sessions if indicated, but generally we will meet together every time. It will then take as long as it takes. Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) follows a progression of logical steps. Many couples experience significant improvement in their relationship, with potentially permanent changes in as little as 15-20 sessions. For a comprehensive look at the process of EFT, please visit www.iceeft.com.
Interesting fact: One of the most important factors influencing a positive outcome in couples therapy is the relationship you have with your therapist. It's not just important – it's critical that you feel you can trust your therapist and trust the process. That you feel understood and validated and accepted and safe enough to explore some of the deeper aspects of yourself. The depth of your trust will directly influence how much of yourself you can invest in the process, and the depth of the change that can occur as a result. We will spend time building that trust at whatever pace is right for you. This can be healing in itself, and an opportunity for you practice taking “safe” risks.
The idea of a safe risk is a tricky area but it's important. You may want to give it some thought ahead of time. Making significant changes in your most important relationship can be intimidating, uncomfortable and just plain scary. On the other hand, that's what we're here for – right? If it was easy – there wouldn't be a problem!
To me, the guiding principle is your comfort zone. Stay right in the middle of that and you may as well save your time and money and make your peace with the way things are. On the other hand – you don't want to be plucked right out of that safe place and fed to hungry sharks, right? The good news is that the solution centers around you being in control. The trick is in allow yourself to be brought to the very edge of your comfort zone and then to consider skooching the edge out a bit. That way you engage your head and your heart in the decision to take a risk. My job is to help you get there and to make it an informed decision when you do. It isn't easy and it may not be fun. But the rewards? - you be the judge.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ...Anais Nin
You can find a judge in a courtroom. My hope and my bias is to keep you out of there.
EFT builds on the assumption that every choice makes sense in its context – no matter how much it may be missing the mark. We're all doing the best we can under the circumstances!
That's very different to saying that in a disagreement or disconnection that someone isn't “at fault” or that each partner is equally “to blame”. In many cases that may not be true. But that's not my call. When the goal, though, is to find your way back to each other and build a more secure bond, it is just not helpful for a therapist to try to play referee. Connection and forgiveness come through mutual understanding. One of the best ways to start is to create a blame-free zone. When we are all on the same team, we can better apologize, empathize and be truly sorry and also accept an apology so you can truly heal and move on stronger.
Yep – you will. Sorry.
Emotions have a way of running the show anyway – may as well learn how to drive them and save yourself a whole lot of grief. It's really quite empowering once you get used to it...
Not all therapy is created equal, and not every therapist is trained in an outcome-based, empirically validated model of couples therapy.
Counselling can be a huge investment of hope, emotional energy and financial resources. You take a risk and trust a stranger with the most intimate and important part of you – your heart. When you take that step and it misses the mark you can be left feeling discouraged – maybe even cheated. Perhaps the experience left you feeling judged. Or you ended up feeling worse – you were just having the same fight in a different setting. Or maybe the whole process left you underwhelmed: Didn't offer anything that felt like it got to the heart of the matter.
But good news: research supports strong positive outcomes in some models of couple therapy. Over 90% of couples who participated in research on Emotionally Focused Therapy couples therapy got better and continued to have strong and growing marital relationships even at 2 years of completing therapy. (see Johnson, S., Hunsley, J., Greenberg, L. & Schindler, D. (1999). Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (A meta-analysis). Journal of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 6,67-79.)
It's important to find a therapist who has specific training and experience working with couples and who is also someone you feel you can trust and connect with – someone who really “gets” you. It can take a few tries to find the right match for you.
Please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is too important to give up on!
|ICEEFT serves as a centre of excellence for the promotion of secure, resilient and successful relationships between partners and within families. Our mission includes the further expansion and refinement of the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) model through process and outcome research. Another central aspect of our mission is to educate health professionals and to increase public awareness about the efficacy of EFT and its role in strengthening relationship bonds. (More)|
|We are passionate about happy relationships and excited to see Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) expand into Australia. EFT has a large body of evidence through over 20 years of research proving it to be highly effective in creating lasting relationship happiness. With amazing research outcomes, EFT has clearly shown itself to be a leading form of couples therapy across the world. The Australian Centre for EFT aims to provide a web-based networking tool for EFT therapists in Australia and New Zealand. (More)|
|Melbourne community for Emotionally Focused therapy (MCEFT) is a group of mental health professionals who practise and study Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples. We seek to provide relevant information to the wider community, particularly couples in distress, about how EFT can effectively help them develop stronger, healthier relationships. (More)|
Counselling is a big investment in more ways than one. On top of the emotional risk you take, you are expected to part with a lot of hard earned dollars!!
A good counsellor has trained long and hard to be in a position to offer you help that really helps. Investing in the things that matter brings the biggest reward. But even though we're all doing the best we can, not everyone can afford the same things. Trust me - I get it.
My wish is to be able to provide help to anyone who's really serious about working on their relationship. Please ask me about reduced fees for special circumstances. We just might find a way to make it work.
And BTW, please consider the alternative. A divorce can cost so much more in oh, so many ways.
Most people experience a positive change in the first few sessions - we begin to make sense of your distress and see a way through it! This is a temporary improvement that will be permanent when we then replace those old unhelpful ways of relating with better ones. This whole process can happen in as little as 15-20 sessions. For others it will take longer. If you have a significant trauma in your past, or if your relationship has experienced an injury like infidelity it will probably take longer. If one or both of you are not sure you want to commit to couples counselling, you may benefit better from Discernment Counselling until you're both on the same page. For an overview of the process of EFT, please visit www.iceeft.com or this page from TRIEFT.