I just had the first two days of an EFT for Couples training. It’s good stuff, develped by Sue Johnson & Leslie Greenberg that dovetails nicely with what I already know, but brings in a new perspective and new useful tools. As Yolanda von Hockauf of the Vancouver Couple & Family Institute ably told us, EFT is an experiential therapy for couples that attends to the attachment style of the couple and the cycles that those styles create between the couple. Therapists "unpack" the cycle by leading the clients into the primary attachment-related emotions underneath their defensive emotions and acting out. When the sometimes-angry, sometimes-"soft" pursuer experiences and recognizes the raw need for comfort, contact, and validation beneath their anger and the sometimes-defensive or sometimes-shutdown withdrawer experiences/recognizes the overwhelmedness and sense of inadequecy beneath the stonewalling/disappearing act and they both are able to communicate and hear the other communicate, the cycle can be broken, and new attachment styles made.

The techniques are simple and elegant. The couple is "held" by the therapist’s connection and compassion. Good old attachment therapy mirroring and heightening of affect simeltaneously builds affect tolerance and self understanding. The painful cycle is identified. No one is pathologized. The problems are reframed in attachment terms. Partners learn to accept each other’s experience, as they accept their own. They begin to express emotions, needs, and wants. They become engaged. At that point, and not until that point, the therapy addresses solutions to the original problems. The partners consolidate their new positions and attachment behaviors and move on. EFT is reported to have a 73% success rate, extremely high for couple therapy.

I went to the workshop with my three office-mates and a few other colleagues. Most of us have 25 years or more of clinical experience. All of us do EMDR and several other therapy modalities. All of us have some background in attachment-oriented therapies. With all that, we appreciated the new lens and the new interventions. Our therapies will change again, even our individual work. 

Right now,  I’m thinking about the work my husband and I did 9 years ago with Ruth Morehouse, a Schnarchian therapist (in fact, married to David Schnarch). We saw her 3 to 4 hours each day for 4 days in a row. Ruth worked in the differentiation/developmental model of couple’s therapy. When I think back on her interventions, I see that nearly everything she did fit seamlessly into the EFT model. It was lovely work, slightly more confrontive than what I imagine most EFT would be. The language was slightly different. The experience of getting to the underlying affect, stating our true needs, and reconnecting on a different (and better) level looked very similar to the videos I saw this weekend. Many roads lead to well-differentiated, well-attached couples. Lucky for us!