Couples therapy is an investment of your time, money, and emotional energy. Of course you want to make sure you get the best results! Perhaps you yearn for more peaceful communication, deeper and more meaningful connections, or increased intimacy and closeness. Whatever your goals, Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) ultimately helps you and your partner to feel better in your relationship.
A lot of the EFT process rests on finding the right therapist with excellent training to guide you and your partner, but there is a lot YOU can do to make sure you are getting the most out the process! Here are some tips to keep in mind as you start your EFT couples therapy.
Commit to Weekly Attendance
Many couples ask if they can come to couples therapy every other week, or even monthly, hoping that they can save time or money with the process. While this is an understandable request, it may actually make your therapy less effective, and may ultimately make it take longer. At its core, therapy is about learning something new - new ways of experiencing emotion, new ways to communicate, and new ways to connect with your partner. Whenever we are learning something new, regular repetition is part of what our brains need to solidify this new information. In fact, part of why researchers believe EFT is so effective is that it helps us to re-wire the parts of our brain that have been creating barriers to connecting with our partners. Like tending a garden, this process needs regular care in order to yield best results.
Ask Questions and Share Your Concerns
I always welcome questions, concerns, and feedback from clients. I want to make sure your experience is as positive as possible! Please feel free to share with me any concerns or questions you may have. Also, let me know if you or your partner feel like canceling a session or discontinuing therapy. EFT can be tough and can bring up some unexpected emotions. Sometimes, we may feel like we just don't want to come in. Checking in with me and sharing these feelings allows me to assess whether these feelings are normal for where we are in the process, or if there is something I can be doing differently to make it a more positive experience.
Embrace the Process as Much as You Can
Talking with your partner about your inner world can feel like a risk. As a therapist, I never ask a client to risk more than feels safe, but I will ask you to risk what you feel you can. Your EFT therapist may ask you to try some things that may feel pretty different. One thing that sets EFT apart from other types of therapy is that we sometimes ask you to turn to your partner and say things in a new way, or even to share things you may not have ever said to them before. This can feel strange at first, but I encourage you to give it a try. EFT therapists do this because the research shows that couples deepen their relationships more when they talk directly to each other, with the guidance of the therapist.
Stick It Out Until the End
Good couples therapy takes time. Researchers who study EFT say it takes 8 - 20 sessions to be effective, and many seasoned therapists know from experience that it can often take longer. So, this can be quite a range! How do you and your partner know what to expect?
One thing to keep in mind is the complexity of your particular situation. Many of the couples who are chosen to participate in research studies are not the average couple - they may be relatively young university students who may or may not have children, and are less likely to have had medical stressors, recent loss, infidelity, etc. For a couple who has been through serious life stressors, it will likely take longer to fully reach your goals.
EFT is a process, with steps and stages that the therapist helps couples progress through when they are ready. These stages take time for most couples. Sometimes a couple wishes to end therapy before reaching the final stage, and this is always your choice. However, when couples really stick it out and finish the final stage of EFT, research shows that their results are more likely to be permanent than couples who end prematurely. I am always happy to discuss with a couple where they are in the process, and to check in on how we all feel the work is progressing. I will also let couples know when we are nearing the end of the process, and when they are ready to graduate from working with me!
Consider Doing Some Extra Credit
There are some great resources to enhance and deepen your EFT progress that will likely help you and your partner reach your goals faster and with more permanence.
* Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Love by Sue Johnson - Gives a great overview of EFT, and delves into the research underpinnings of attachment psychology. This book will enhance your understanding of what is going on in your EFT sessions.
* Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson - Gives a great overview of EFT and contains conversations to work through with your partner. This is great for couples who feel they get along fairly well, and wish to enhance their connection and progress in therapy.
* An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us by Veronica Kallos-Lilly and Jennifer Fitzgerald - This is a very interactive workbook where couples complete structured activities individually and together to really solidify their understanding of the relationship cycle and how to connect differently. Some couples who get along well may be successful working through this book on their own, but most couples will benefit from the guidance of an EFT-trained therapist.
One of the most effective ways to boost to your couples therapy is to attend a Hold Me Tight workshop. Hold Me Tight is an intensive couples workshop, usually held over two days. There is also a version called Created for Connection that integrates the same material with Christian spirituality. These workshops really allow you to accelerate and deepen the therapy process. The clients I work with who have participated in Hold Me Tight are able to return to their therapy work with a new level of insight and connection with their partner, and progress much faster. A colleague and I offer a Hold Me Tight workshop in the Cincinnati area, or you can also search nation-wide programs on the ICEEFT link bellow.
(ICEEFT is the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy).
Give Yourself and Your Partner Some Credit!
Finally, take a deep breath, take a step back, and give yourself and your partner some credit! Maybe give your partner a high five. Yeah - that's right - a high five! You are doing something really important - the decision to come to couples therapy is not easy. There are a lot of other things you could be doing, but you are here in the emotional trenches with your partner, because you matter to each other, and you want to connect more. Remember the things about your partner that drew you to them when you first met. The negative patterns couples get stuck in can be painful, and can sometimes cause us to loose sight of the things we love about the other person, but those wonderful qualities are still there. You are about to embark on the incredibly brave work to untangle the negative cycle, heal from past pain, and re-discover and deepen your connection. Let's honor the commitment that you and your partner are making in this process. I can't wait to see where this goes!
Rose Kormanyos, MA, IMFT is a Licensed Independent Marriage and Family Therapist, and owner of Redwood Counseling in Sharonville, Ohio. If you think she may be the right therapist for you and your partner, contact her today for a free phone consultation.