I also work with Couples (married, pre-marital, living together, gay or straight).

How do you know if your marriage or relationship is in trouble?  Do you feel unappreciated?  Do the habits that you once found endearing now grate on your nerves?  Are you saying things to each other in anger that you later regret?  Do you feel angry, sad, worried, tense or defeated?  These are just some of the signs of a relationship in distress.

Don't wait to get professional help.  Many couples don't know where to get help and just wait and hope their relationship troubles will get better by themselves.  Often, however, ignoring the problems makes them worse and can lead to psychological problems like depression or inappropriate behavior, such as having an affair.

Couples therapy can be preventive.  You don't need a troubled relationship to seek counseling.  Extensive research by John Gottman, author of "Getting the Love You Want" and many other books on relationships, found that happy couples are those who know how to handle their disagreements based on a foundation of friendship and affection.  Learning effective communication and how to use it for solving problems in your marriage can help you maintain the friendship and affection, and resolve issues that might otherwise threaten your relationship.

Couples counseling can help you learn to:

  • Listen effectively and empathetically—really come to know your partner
  • Clearly express your needs in a way that you feel you're really being heard
  • Understand your partner's "love language"
  • Fight fairly
  • Nurture your relationship
  • Help each other through stressful life changes

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is a treatment approach whose goal is the reconnection between partners.  EFT, developed by Susan Johnson and Les Greenberg, is based on John Bowlby’s Attachment research from over 50 years ago.  Bowlby found that humans and higher primate animals appeared to have an innate need to feel attached to and comforted by significant others.

Adult attachment relationships are believed to have the same survival functions as the mother-child bond, since ideally these attachments can provide the same love, comfort, support, and protection throughout the lifespan.  However, due to our relationship histories, and the negative interaction cycles we get into with our partners, many of us have difficulties with trust and expressing emotion to those who mean the most to us.

When couples argue about such issues as jealousy, sex or money, the origins of these arguments are usually some form of protest from one partner about not feeling connected, not trusting, or not feeling safe or secure with the other partner.  When those we are attached to are not available, or are not responding to our needs to feel close or supported, we feel distressed.  We may become anxious or fearful, numb or distant.

These behaviors can become habitual or rigid modes of reacting to our partners.  Furthermore, these toxic behavior patterns seem to take on a life of their own as they cycle into repetitive couple’s interactions that cause much pain, injury and despair.  We will focus on these patterns and work on changing these negative interaction cycles in a non-judgmental environment.

In a relatively short time, couples begin to recognize and eventually express their needs for love, support, protection and comfort that are often hidden or disguised by the harsh or angry words used in repetitive self-defeating patterns of conflict or arguments with each other.  Partners begin to “listen with heart,” one of the cornerstones of EFT—which means listening not for the literal meaning of a partner’s words, but for the feelings that lie beneath.  In return, the other partner is better able to respond from their heart in kind.  This is the emotional focus of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

We view the building of a “safe haven” in your relationship as our primary task, and we will try to focus on your primary needs—to feel close, secure and responded to—which probably underlie most of your couple’s conflict.

Once this safe haven and feeling of connection are reestablished, you will be better able to manage conflict and the painful or difficult feelings that will inevitably arise from time to time in a close relationship.  Furthermore, without so much defensiveness, each of you will be able to send clear messages and will be better able to hear the other’s perspective.  You will be better able to collaborate, problem-solve, and compromise—in short, you’ll be more of a team—which is the secret of a long-lived, successful relationship!

Research on the success of EFT:  EFT appears to move couples from distress to recovery in 20-25 sessions for 70-75% of cases, and creates improvements in 90% of couples coming for therapy.  EFT has been used with many different types of couples in private practice, university training centers, and hospital clinics.  These distressed couples include partners suffering from disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress, and chronic illness.

To view further references, recent articles describing EFT therapy, and books on EFT, please refer to the EFT website:  Psychology Today.  March/April 2003.

Additional Information

Myths and Realities of Couples Therapy