Love heals, but sometimes we are hurt by those we love. Couples can experience trauma through marital distress as well as, affairs, miscarriages, death of a child or chronic illness of a partner. Other types of trauma affecting relationships can include combat stress and childhood abuse. Trauma and PTSD is defined when the following happens: the person was exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. PTSD is a disorder of deregulation. Having a safe and connected relationship with a partner helps to regulate emotions and create a greater sense of wellness. Attachment with our partner creates a safe haven and improved emotional and physical health.
The nature of trauma can create a broken connection from others and the world around them. People who have been traumatized tend to isolate. Couples counseling helps to bring the spark back to the relationship and allows partners to find an abundance of love again. The benefits of EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) for couples counseling includes: talking about issues in a safe environment, gain confidence and self expression as a couple by identifying strengths, improve communication, learn to negotiate and compromise with one another and reduce arguments, learn what is keeping you “stuck”, find ways to move forward with each other, work through affairs, regain trust and heal, increase your bond, strengthen your connection and get back the “spark” in your relationship.
Besides the use of EFT therapy to help build and strengthen the connection of traumatized couples it is also helpful in assisting couples who aren’t in crisis to build resiliency against life stressors. Having close, connected relationships with a partner and having social supports can also create resiliency for the future effects of trauma and chronic stress that are part of navigating life.
EFT is now one of the most popular forms of couple’s therapy. There are numerous research studies supporting its 90% effectiveness in greater happiness and improvement in the relationship for couples in 8-20 sessions. According to http://www.goodtherapy.org the principles of EFT in helping traumatized couples is as follows:
Stage One: Cycle Deescalation
- Step 1: Identify key issues of concern.
- Step 2: Identify ways negative patterns of interaction increase conflict when key issues arise.
- Step 3: The therapist assists in the identification of unacknowledged fears and negative emotions related to attachment underlying negative interaction patterns.
- Step 4: The therapist reframes key issues for the couple in terms of negative patterns of interaction, underlying emotions and fears, and each individual’s attachment needs.
Stage Two: Changing Interaction Patterns
- Step 5: Individuals are assisted in voicing both their attachment needs and deep emotions.
- Step 6: Partners are coached in ways to express acceptance and compassion for a partner's attachment needs and deep emotions.
- Step 7: Partners are coached in the expression of attachment needs and emotions while also learning ways to discuss those issues likely to cause conflict.
Stage Three: Consolidation and Integration
- Step 8: The therapist coaches the couple in the use of new communication styles to talk about old problems and develop new solutions.
- Step 9: The couple learns ways to use skills practiced in therapy outside of session and develops a plan to make new interaction patterns a consistent part of life after therapy.
Research shows that, on average, couples wait six years from the time they recognize that they are having serious problems to the time that they seek help for their relationship. Don’t wait any longer to seek help. To learn more about Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples please click here What is EFT? You may also want to read the book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by the originator of EFT, Dr. Sue Johnson.
Lemecia Lindsey, LICSW is a trained EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) trauma therapist and EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapist) for couples and will combine the two forms of treatment when appropriate to further enhance couples therapy and create greater success for couples. To learn more about her work with traumatized couples please visit her webpage.
Lemecia & The VWS Team.