Emotion Focused Couples Counseling in Calgary.
Healing the heart of marriage!
From the very moment of our births, we all seek to connect. Within seconds, we utter our first cry - and it's a cry to be held. Our eyes seem unable to rest until they find the gaze of our parents and our hearts long to know that safe place of gentle, unconditional love.
Over and over again, science shows us how deeply our need to be loved and connected is written into our DNA. And, it also shows us how painful, frustrating and confusing it can be when we just can't make love work - or stop our relationships from falling apart.
But, feeling stuck and hopeless doesn't have to mean that it's time to leave your partner. There is always hope, no matter how painful your relationship has become. Love is really a science with principles you can learn to apply to your relationship so you get the love you want.
So, if you'd like your relationship to show the improvement that is seen by over 90% of couples undertaking Emotion Focused Relationship Therapy, then read on to see how Henze & Associates can help you become so much better at love!
Where did Emotion Focused Couples Counseling come from anyway?
Emotion Focused Couples Therapy was birthed out of three rigorously researched and thoroughly substantiated schools of thought:
- Person Centered Therapy: Starting in the 1940's, Psychologist Carl Rogers began developing a gentle, deeply relational, empathetic and judgment-free therapy based on authentic relational connection between therapist and client. He believed that listening to your own internal experience was the foundation for being and wanted to aid people in developing/healing a sense of self so their attitudes, feelings and choices could be understood and changed. Person Centered Therapy is focused on trusting your own thoughts and feelings, responsibly walking in freedom and discovering for yourself how to risk living a fully human life.
- Family Systems Therapy: In the 1960's, Carl Whitaker began to assert that the family, not the person, was the client. Murray Bowen soon followed with his understandings of how important a separate sense of self was when building intimate relationships and, through such, authored one of the most complete understandings of family emotional systems, generational roots of problems and the ways we blame and cut ourselves off from others. Family Systems Therapy is a solution focused therapy that seeks to first offer an understanding of dysfunctional patterns and then offers change through replacing those patterns.
- Attachment Theory: In post war Europe, John Bowlby began to study maternal deprivation in children and the emotional, mental and social damage the loss of a primary attachment figure causes. His understandings of parental proximity, sensitivity and responsiveness (or their lack) and the relational patterns of insecurity, avoidance or disorganization that resulted has been directly applied to adults and, eventually, to marriage.
- Between 70-75% of couples experience the elimination of marital distress and full recovery from a threatened relational state.
- Even if full recovery is not achieved, 90% of couples show significant improvements in their relationship and the issues that brought them to counseling.
- Moreover, the changes achieved have been shown to be much more immune to relapse then those from other approaches.
- Cycle De-escalation: Before anything can be fixed, it must first be understood. We look at the core issues and conflicts that are causing detachment and the cycles that keep the couple in insecurity and emotional distress. We search for roots in the past that may have contributed to patterns of detachment and we come to see that it's the cycle of detachment, not the persons, that is the problem.
- Changing interactional patterns and stances: Here we learn to accept ourselves/our needs and honestly and humbly bring them to relationship. We learn how to gently accept our partner's experience of him or herself, the relationship and needs and gain skills in the effective expression of such. We learn softness and we come to understand the power of systems and patterns in both a positive and a negative sense.
- Consolidation and Integration: Gaining understanding and learning skills is great - but, eventually, it has to be applied to real life problems. This is where old patterns are assessed, in depth strategies are developed, new interactional patterns are modeled and then assigned and new systems of attachment come to replace the cycles of detachment.
- Reengagement: This is when the partner who has normally withdrawn from relationship changes tactics and becomes more accessible to his or her partner and more vocal in defining his or her expectations or needs within the relationship so those needs can be met.
- Softening: This is where the pursuing (and generally critical, controlling and/or hostile) partner begins to trustingly engage with his or her partner through personal transparency and a vulnerable expression of needs so his or her deep fears of loss and abandonment can be reassured.
- Exploration and understanding: Everyone sees the world in different ways and, unless we actively seek to understand the world through our partner's eyes, his or her emotions and reactions will always be a mystery to us and will cause us distress.
- Reformulation: While our feelings are incredibly important, they don't always accurately depict reality. For example, the fact that I may feel afraid does not automatically mean that my partner is a threat to me. Learning to see the world through our partner's eyes and coming to understand our own emotional responses offers us the opportunity to reformulate our beliefs about our partners and ourselves.
- Restructuring interactions: It's not about re-labeling emotion from a distance, it's about walking into those strong secondary emotions of anger and fear and learning how to see the primary emotions of helplessness, hopelessness, shame, guilt, self hatred, confusion etc. that underlie them. We track and reflect upon what is happening in the emotional connection, make sense of how it creates attachment or detachment and then create, map out and practice new responses and means of being available to our partners for bonding and intimacy.
In the 2000's Sue Johnson condensed the core elements of the above into a gentle, non-judgmental, emotionally focused, psycho-educational approach. Built on a deep awareness of how broken systems break hearts, it fundamentally is geared towards restoring attachment and replacing the systems that create further relational detachment in couple relationships.
Why choose Emotion Focused Couples Therapy?
Simply put: It really works! Emotion Focused Counseling for couples is one of the most well researched and empirically validated forms of therapy for couple relationships. Research has repeatedly shown that:
Emotion Focused Therapy for couples is the tool of choice for couples in trouble. It doesn't pursue perfection - rather, it is all about learning to connect, tune-in to the heart of the other person, recognize misread cues or signals of disconnection, repair connections and then continually build towards greater heart level bonding with a partner.
When we accept the humanness and imperfections of the other person and, instead, focus on strengthening emotional bonds and the over-all emotional safety of the relationship, we can create a receptive, emotionally open bubble of security around a relationship where vulnerability and emotional closeness can grow.
Stages of Emotion Focused Couples Therapy:
Emotion Focused Therapy for couples generally progresses through three separate stages:
It's about learning how to decrease reactivity, walk away from negative beliefs about your partner, learn milder and less judgmental responses, risk engagement and ultimately come to see your partner as your ally and the cycles of disconnection as the enemy.
The key changes we seek to create:
There are two key change events in Emotion Focused Couples Counseling which are of critical importance:
When these two changes occur, we have witnessed the birth of a new cycle marked by responsiveness and engagement that can heal past wounding, eliminate isolation, dramatically diminish frustration and create a completely new kind of relationship where problems can be solved together.
What can you expect during Emotion Focused Therapy for couples?
Above everything else, Emotion Focused Couples Counseling starts with relationship. While some other forms of therapy may seem more clinical or detached, facilitating the healing of a couple relationship is, by definition, about relationship and an empathically connected, accepting and genuine relational connection is the foundation of Emotion Focused Couples Therapy.
It starts with couple and therapist forming a connection and then reaching a shared agreement about a whole variety of areas which can include legal, historical, cultural, spiritual and other expectations so there are no surprises, everyone is on the same page and a safe place is created for everyone to open up and really share - a safe place to learn to see the relationship through each other's eyes.
We then embark on three key tasks:
And, it's definitely not about keeping you in therapy forever - we help you solidify those new patterns, teach skills that make it easier to keep systems of connection going and help in escaping relapses so that closeness and safety can become your new normal. Gaining a trust in your own ability to repair any issues that come your way so that you can quickly resume being close to each other is essential to developing a confidence that you CAN go the distance.
Come and see what Emotion Focused Couples Therapy can do for you today!
The road of marriage is always a bumpy one and experiencing a great marriage isn't about finding a way to make it perfectly smooth. Rather, it's about spotting those bumps in the road well in advance, gaining the skills to turn towards each other in care and compassion, really hearing the heart of the other person, remaining aware of past patterns and helping each other to overcome those bumps you build a new, closer and much more enjoyable relationship.
So, if you're tired of feeling disconnected, tuned-out and are sick of feeling constantly misunderstood and out of control in your relationship, then come and see what Henze & Associates Emotion Focused Couples Counseling can offer you today.