The quality of our relationships is central to our personal happiness and sense of well-being, both mentally and physically. However, a good relationship can be hard to achieve for many of us and for a variety of reasons. This can be true whether we have been together for 6 weeks, a few months or many years. There is no doubt that a good relationship is created, it doesn’t just happen! It takes time, energy, and focus – resources that we are all short of…. but we also need the right collaborative attitude, we need to be kind, we need to learn to communicate in a new way in ourselves and with each other. What we require from our intimate relationship in today’s fast-moving society, is hard to create. Mostly, we do what we see i.e. we model our behaviour on those who are close to us but often as not, what we learned about relationships from our parents and grandparents just doesn’t help us today. It is hard to find a shining example of a good relationship that will serve us in the 21st Century.
My answer to this is to use Professor Susan Johnson’s Emotion Focused approach as the core of my work with clients in relationship difficulties. EFT is a structured approach to couples’ therapy formulated in the 1980’s and has developed alongside the science on adult attachment and bonding. Research studies find that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements when they engage in EFT work.
Our first contact is either by phone or email. Once you have requested a meeting, we will book an appointment for you and your partner. I will send you a “clients details” form to gather the necessary information I need, before I see you. I will send you a letter by email with all the information and details that you need to know before our first meeting. All contact is between me and both partners in a relationship, regardless of who makes the initial enquiry. This is to ensure that both partners are acting of their own accord and are fully involved/consulted with the arrangements.
The initial appointment is 90 minutes which gives me time to hear your concerns about the relationship and time for me to explain a little of what I do. This first appointment also gives us a chance to spend time together which usually informs both you as a couple and me as a therapist about whether we can work together. The therapist/client relationship is dependent on a good fit. By the end of the hour and a half we will have a better sense of what the issues are and whether I can help you or not. If I cannot, I can usually refer you to another professional who can, if that is necessary.
If we decide to take things to the next stage I will then meet with both of you individually to get to know both of you separately a little. These individual appointments also allow me to take a good family and relationship history which is always relevant to any on-going couples work.
After that we start in earnest with the conjoint couples’ sessions and work towards the most effective ending as is possible.
“In a therapy session, a husband’s numb withdrawal expands into a sense of helplessness, a feeling of being intimidated. He begins to assert his need for respect and, in doing so, becomes more accessible to his wife. He moves from “There is no point in talking to you. I don’t want to fight.” to “I do want to be close. I want you to give me a chance. Stop poking me and let me learn to be there for you.” His wife’s critical anger then expands into fear and sadness. She can now ask for and elicit comfort. She moves from “You just don’t care. You don’t get it.” to “It is so difficult to say – but I need you to hold me – reassure me – can you?”
New cycles of bonding interactions occur and replace negative cycles such as pursue-withdraw or criticize-defend. These positive cycles then become self-reinforcing and create permanent change. The relationship becomes a safe haven and a healing environment for both partners.
Sue Johnson, The Love Secret: The revolutionary new science of romantic relationships