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When you are both right

By | Couples Therapy | No Comments

You may have heard the parable about the blind men and the elephant. It a nut shell it goes like this:
There were once three blind men who stumbled upon an elephant. The first man happened by chance to grab a hold of the elephant’s trunk. “This creature that we have stumbled upon, said the first man, ” must be some strange kind of snake”.

The second man’s hands having landed upon the elephant’s leg exclaimed, “No this is not a snake at all. It is simply a tree trunk, nothing more, nothing less”.

The third blind man, having randomly settled his hands upon the elephant’s tail, countered, “No, you silly fools. This is not a snake or a tree trunk. What we most obviously have here is a rope.”

As we consider this parable, we can certainly understand how this disagreement occured, for each of the men have only their direct experience to go off of. Each man is doing his best to make sense of what his hands are telling him. He is trying to understand to the best of his ability what strange creature stands before him.

I like to keep this parable in mind when I am sitting with couple’s in my psychotherapy practice.  For, it is  not my job to point out that what they are touching is not a snake, is not a tree trunk, is not a rope.  Rather I want to know, how it feels to be gripping that snake, trunk, or rope.  Is it frightening?  Confusing?  And what do those feelings make him want to do?  Do they make him want to run?  Do they make him want to fight?

From here each client can come a deeper understanding of their own experience and impulses, and their partner can too. At that point it stops mattering who is right about the creature they have stumbled upon. The argument can stop, and compassion, clarity and understanding can begin.

Four Compelling Reasons to Consider Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

By | Couples Therapy | No Comments

1)  You will not be judged, lectured or criticized by an E.F.T. therapist.
Perhaps one of the biggest fears that people have about entering couples therapy is that they are going to be judged. lectured, or simply made to feel flawed as a partner, husband or wife, by the therapist. Or, as a friend told me of his unfortunate experience in couples therapy, “The therapist kept telling me that I lacked empathy, that I needed to be a better husband to my wife.”
Fortunately an E.F.T. trained therapist knows better than to take such a stance. It is safe to say that no one in the couple is going to be judged. Why? Because an E.F.T. therapist understands that a person’s behavior (no matter how dramatic or superficially “dysfunctional”) is simply that person’s best attempt to get very valid needs met. In other words the E.F.T. therapist sees that her client is doing his best (although in a temporarily misguided way) to feel safe, secure, seen, validated, valued, wanted, or loved. The E.F.T. therapist understands that when a person’s relational needs are taken seriously (first by the therapist, and ultimately by the person’s partner), then old problematic behaviors can gracefully step aside – no judgment or criticism required.

2)   An E.F.T. therapist is deeply committed to your emotional safety within the couples therapy process.
Emotionally Focused Therapy does not overlook the importance of emotional safety in the couple’s healing process. In short, the E.F.T. therapist recognize that no lasting and real change can happen in the absence of safety. Because of this recognition, the therapist is committed first and foremost to aiding the couple in recognizing and overcoming relational patterns that have contributed to this ground of unsafety. She understands that emotional injuries are commonplace in any relationship, and she takes the effects of these injuries seriously. She understands that safety can and does get shaken up, and that it is our natural impulse to want to protect ourselves from further injury. She understands the importance of re-creating safety, and is committed to making sure that ground of safety is cultivated. Then and only then does the E..FT. therapist invite and guide the couple into a more vulnerable and open encounter with each other. In short, an E.F.T. therapist is not going to be prematurely invite a client into emotional vulnerability with their partner, a risk many even the best intentioned of couples therapies often inadvertently take.

3)   An E.F.T. therapist is not going to waste your precious time and money getting caught up in the content of your relationship struggles.
I can’t count how many times a couple has told me how they had spent session after couples session having the same argument that they had prior to seeking couples therapy, however this time simply had another person caught up in the details with them. Alternatively, and E.F.T. therapist is trained to avoid this frustrating experience. As Sue Johnson (originator of E.F.T.) describes it, the E.F.T, trained therapist does not “get sucked down the content tube” with her clients. Rather the E.F.T. therapist slows things down, and gets below the surface to what is really important. She helps the couple distill the valid needs and feelings they have in relationship to their partner, rather than, for example, focusing on who is doing more of the housework. In short, an E.F.T. therapist is trained to be expert tracker of the couple’s process, so when a couple is lost in a painful argument (that they have had a million times over), the E.F.T. therapist does not get lost with them. She stays centered. She stays at the helm of the ship, unswayed by the storm around her.

4)   E.F.T. is the most optimistic approach to couple’s therapy that I have encountered.
E.F.T. therapists absolutely believe that change and healing can and does happen, even within the most distressed of couples. They believe this because they see it happen over and over again. And they believe this because they utilize a therapeutic technique and approach that is backed up by a substantial body of research. In short, 90% of couples experience significant positive change within their relationship after a course of E.F.T. And, this change persists years after completing therapy.


I want you to like me

By | Individual Therapy | No Comments

At what point in your life did you begin to believe that it was wrong to care what other people thought about you? At what point did you tell yourself that such a desire was immature, ridiculous, and a sign that you have no self esteem? It is so sad for me to witness over and over again people berating themselves for what I believe are natural and healthy human impulses. Of course we ALL care what people think about us. We all want to feel valued, respected and appreciated for who we are. But somehow most of us get the message, somewhere along the line, that we should be terribly concerned and ashamed about this desire.
Let me tell you about my seven year old son. He is completely at ease with his desire to be seen and valued. He has no ambivalence about declaring “Look at me” as he proudly attempts a cartwheel. Sure, the exhilaration of feeling his body fly through the air is well worth the effort of the cartwheel. But he wants more. He wants to be SEEN tumbling through the air. He wants applause. He wants recognition that he practiced hard to master that move. And, if they were handing out ribbons for his wonderful feat, he would receive it with absolute pride.
He would not sit down and think to himself, “What is WRONG with me? Why can’t I just enjoy the cartwheel all by myself? I clearly have no self esteem? I am clearly flawed.”
“But”, you might say to me, “I should have outgrown such a need.” Its MY job now to validate myself.
And, as far as I’m concerned, that sounds as ill-advised to me as , “Its MY job now to give myself a hug”, or “Its MY job now to create my OWN oxygen to breathe.”
In short, I believe that it is a basic human need to feel liked and valued by others. It is not a pathology. And, it is not something that we should strive to live without.
Sure, we should consider if we are contorting ourselves in order to be liked, if we are abandoning our selves, our boundaries, our self respect in order to be liked. These are valid and valuable questions to explore. But to berate and pathologize ourselves for the underlying NEED itself compels us to take up arms against the wrong enemy, compels us to attack ourselves for wanting a little applause for our beautiful cartwheel; the one that might not be perfectly straight, or fluid, or fancy, but that is ours, is us