A variety of modalities will be used with couples that differ from individual therapy. The success of couple work depends on the willingness of BOTH individuals to understand and care for themselves, listen to and understand the other, and work together. Couple therapy is NOT A FORUM TO FIX OR ATTACK THE OTHER. It is important to understand and accept differences.
Some problem solving, communication techniques, and listening techniques may be employed in the sessions, as well as spiritual principals, but the KEY will be the understanding of underlying needs of self and other.
Often other problems interfere with couple work - past abuse, medical issues, depression, mania and other mental health issues. These must be understood and managed so both understand how they impact the relationship.
Dr. John Gottman has conducted the most extensive research on couples work. A readable synthesis of his findings can be found in his book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
A powerful Christian model is spelled out in the book The Love Dare by Kendricks and Kendricks.
Dr. David Snarch’s "Crucible Therapy" is based on differentiation - the ability to hold onto yourself while maintaining relationships with others. His therapy also addresses emotional gridlock in resolving marital and sexual issues. The Sexual Crucible and The Passionate Marriage are two of his books.
I believe that the most effective model for couples work is found in Dr. Sue Johnson’s work with Emotional Focused Therapy - EFT (a readable synthesis of her findings can be found in her book Hold Me Tight).
I will focus on Dr. Johnson’s EFT process with all couples, and as needed, intersperse other models to break down barriers in the relationship.
Rigorous studies during the past fifteen years have shown that 70 to 75 percent of couples who go through EFT move from distress to recovery, and up to 85 percent report being happier in their relationships. And the results appear long lasting, even with couples who are at high risk for divorce.
EFT comes from an understanding that emotional connection with a loving, romantic partner is as basic a human need as food, shelter and sex, and that conflict with a husband, wife, or intimate partner can trigger our deepest wounds. When we feel that level of emotional pain it is often hard to articulate our truth with compassion for our self or our partner.
Through the EFT process couples learn how to turn toward their partner when they feel unheard, fearful, shameful, or hurt, rather than pulling away, getting angry, complaining, or shutting down. The relationship moves from one of constant struggle to a well-spring of support and love. Ultimately this work opens the possibility for both partners to be vulnerable with each other, to move beyond built up walls and defenses, and to begin to build emotional bonds that continue to grow long after therapy has ended.
I recommend every couple who wants couple therapy purchase and read Dr. Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight, and complete the homework in the book, whether we follow that approach or not.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
By: Dr. Sue Johnson - Creator of evidence-based Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy
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