What’s different about Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy compared to other approaches?
We are getting at the root of what you and your partner’s issues are. What is keeping you feeling disconnected? What emotional patterns keep happening over and over again? We’re not looking to give you some tools and put a band-aid on it, or talk endlessly about your childhood. We are also not going for blaming, diagnosing, or pathologizing anyone. The therapist works to get into the moment of what is happening between you, while interrupting that negative pattern and encouraging vulnerability. This can lead to breakthroughs about what has been keeping you stuck and disconnected. Together in the session, we work to help get you ‘unstuck’ directly and clearly, while afterwards cultivating a coherent understanding of what just happened, why it did, and how to keep doing it.
What is a typical therapy session like?
In the session, we will be actively helping you get to the bottom of how, when, and why you get hijacked by recurring patterns with your partner. The therapist works to help you to express the more vulnerable feelings (that you may have been unaware of) that drive reactivity. You are then coached and guided to share in a profound, vulnerable way with your partner, including what your deeper needs are for connection and attachment. Together, we help you to make sense of what just happened and how the negative pattern between you both has been self-reinforcing and what it’s components are. EFCT is a perfect combination of deep emotional insight and sharing with a real meta-understanding of what is happening and how you were able to do something different together in real-time. Together, during the session, we are working to create new neuro-pathways of safe, bonding communication. These new pathways are powerful and can help you to learn how to increasingly break the negative patterns on your own.
What is different about you than other therapists?
Our focus at Love Frontier is to provide you with therapists who have superior training and skill as well as an open, relaxed style of therapy. As therapists, we are human, and not trying present in a stiff or superior manner. We strive to create a safe, comfortable environment for you as a couple to make the deepest changes possible. This is not only because of our training in the attachment-based model (EFCT) and specialty in couples therapy, but also the non-pathologizing emotional comfort and safety that we strive to create.
Why is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy considered short-term?
Because we work towards making deep changes quickly. We don’t waste your time by letting you have arguments during the session that you were already having at home. We don’t just sit there, taking notes and vaguely nodding. We are actively engaged, with a clear direction, agenda, and goals – all the while teaching you skills to use at home on your own. Our aim is to get you better and feeling closer, more intimate, and emotionally safe. With that comes results-driven therapy, which in turn fosters confidence. Those ingredients tend to run contrary to endless therapy.
Why is couples therapy expensive?
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy is a very intense type of therapy, our therapists are highly trained and skilled, and it’s results-driven (meaning our objective is to get timely, tangible results). The therapy is weekly and considered shorter term (4-12 months on average). The therapist and couple work hard, with the clinician extremely engaged. Like this, we get down to business right away in a no-nonsense way. There is no time wasted, no unnecessary nodding or history-gathering on the part of the therapist. In the end what you spend on a good EFCT therapist can be quite a bit less than you would spend in a mediocre therapy situation that can last several years with lukewarm results.
Our Associate AMFT’s, who are supervised by our licensed clinical therapists on a weekly basis, charge a lower fee, comparable to other Associate AMFT’s fees in the Bay Area.
I’m worried about doing couples therapy because I’ve heard of a friend whose relationship ended afterwards.
I hear you. Fortunately, this type of couples therapy – Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy’s first agenda is to help you to feel closer, not let you disengage or shove all responsibility onto your partner. It’s about understanding and turning around repetitive patterns while re-connecting you as a couple. By the end of the session, our goal is for you to feel closer and safer with each-other, not more disconnected. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy has been proven to be highly effective – the American Psychological Association states that EFCT correlates with a 75% full recovery with 90% showing significant improvement in their relationship. The other 10% normally consists of physically abusive couples, and / or couples that are facing active addiction issues (In contrast, folks in addiction recovery often do very well with EFCT). In our practice, we are seeing very high success rates with couples who are motivated, committed, and open to doing the hard but rewarding work of therapy together.
Why do couples face problems, what normally leads them to couples therapy, and how does it work?
Couples tend to get disconnected through various life events that can throw them into a tailspin usually instigated by a life change or extra stress. All couples have some issues at one time or another. We bring parts of our childhood and old relationships into our current ones in order to heal. We get into negative, repetitive patterns filled with triggers that can resemble some feelings and stories from our family of origin. Those negative cycles can be triggered by minor events like unloading the dishwasher to harder events like disagreements about parenting, finances, or lack of intimacy. Most couples go through hard times and it’s normal to struggle to get out of a stuck place without outside help. As therapists, we are there to help restructure present interactions in real-time, guide communication, and discover where deep-rooted patterns originate. This is not a theorizing, wishful thinking kind of therapy. Instead it’s highly active, happening experientially and in the moment. That way, the changes we aim to make in our work together are really happening in the moment, not just something we talk about for another day.
Is it possible to recover from infidelity and how is it done?
Absolutely. Infidelity, though hugely painful and upsetting, is something that about 80% of couples who experience it recover from and repair. Couples need four ingredients to do that: 1. End the affair completely. 2. Be willing to talk and admit your mistake. 3. Listen to and express real and repeated empathy for your partner’s feelings of hurt, betrayal, and anger. 4. Be willing to look at what the larger issue is in the relationship that led to the affair. We have seen many couples recover from infidelity and have helped them to navigate what the larger issues and patterns are in the relationship (often building years before the affair) in order to find a new and more fulfilling connection. Ideally, an affair is an opportunity for the relationship to be re-born on different terms and with new self-awareness for each partner.
Our sex life is pretty much nonexistent, can you help with that?
Yes, since some of our therapists are sex therapists as well as couples therapists, we are trained in that area. It’s really common for couples, especially who have been together for a while and / or have had kids recently, to unwittingly put their sex life on hold because they are too busy, exhausted, and overwhelmed to feel much desire. This is normal because parents today really have way too much on their plate. Unless you are prioritizing intimate time together regularly, sex often takes the back seat and a few months can turn into years. There are ways to help get that connection back through both sex and couples therapy. Since sex and intimacy are very important components of your relationship, counseling in that area will often help smooth out other areas of the relationship naturally.
We have a lot of trouble getting on the same page in parenting our kids, can you help?
This is a very common issue. It’s really helpful to unpack what has lead to conflict in the parenting realm and how you handle differences with each-other. You don’t have to have the exact same parenting values at all times (this would be impossible anyway!) in order to find connection and common ground in parenting. Ultimately, if you are able to slow down and listen to one-another repeatedly around parenting differences, you can learn from your partner’s style and influence each-other in positive ways. In EFCT, we work to uncover the negative emotional patterns and old triggers that can hijack you around parenting differences. That way, we can begin to clear the way towards real listening and learning rather than the tendency to try and control or change one-another’s parenting.
We have felt disconnected for years and I don’t know if I even want to stay married, how can you help?
This comes up a lot and we often begin with Discernment Counseling, which encourages each member of the couple to really get clear on what issues each brings into the relationship. That can help couples decide if they are committed to beginning work on the relationship in order to rebuild connection. The reason for this first step of Discernment is because people can often believe that their partner is the sole cause of why the relationship became difficult and disconnected. They sometimes harbor the fantasy that another relationship is going to make life better/ easier / more intimate, etc. Usually, we repeat similar issues in successive relationships so it’s ideal to figure out what your contribution is right now in this relationship. In addition, Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy can help couples to feel more deeply connected through guided vulnerable sharing and bonding. This creates a space where, in essence, partners can re-discover what they fell in love with in the first place. Sometimes it’s just rekindling that spark by helping partners bond and connect again while stopping the cycle of dis-connection. In couples therapy, we work on the negative pattern that got you feeling alone in the first place and help set it right so that you can learn to communicate effectively again together.
How do we make sure we are making progress and staying on track with our goals?
We are all about you asking questions and us as therapists being clear about what we are doing and the science behind it. That way you can understand where we are headed, how, and why. We want you to feel comfortable and knowledgable about what is happening in our work together – that way, you will also feel safer and be more willing to drop in to the emotional risk-taking that is necessary for deep change. True vulnerability can be challenging and you need to feel safe and clear about why you are being asked to take emotional risks with your partner. We have a practical as well as emotional approach that is just the right amount of each and makes couples confident about where we are going and why as well as how to continue to get there after the therapy has ended.
Will you give us tools and homework?
Sometimes and yes, if you request it. Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy is not considered a ‘tool-based’ therapy. Some types of therapy like Solution-Focused or CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) are more about giving suggestions and cognitive-based tools. In our experience and training, this is not deep enough. The way to truly shift patterns is by letting the therapist guide you towards profound emotional risk-taking with your partner in the sessions. This can shift your neuro-pathways and create deep emotional bonding and change. After the experiential work we do in the therapy, we often meta (cognitive) process in order to ‘bake in’ what we just did. Homework is really just about enjoying the closeness and traction you are working on in the therapy and continuing to create situations that build trust and closeness.
We’ve had some bad experiences in the past with therapists, how will this be different?
Likely, if you had a bad experience, it’s because the therapist was not trained specifically in couples therapy or was not a good fit for you personally. You may not have felt emotionally safe or had personality differences with that clinician. Often, therapists have knowledge in many areas gained through their masters or doctorate degrees and can put on several different hats. But in order to be a fantastic couples therapist, a clinician must be highly trained as a post-graduate in the modality they are offering. All of our therapists have advanced training and / or certification in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy as well as some other modalities that you can see in their bios. When shopping for a couples therapist, make sure that in addition to a great fit (you feel safe and have the same goals as your therapist), that the clinician you have chosen is highly trained specifically as a couples therapist by a reputable certification body.
Is online therapy as good as in person therapy?
Yes, we have similar outcomes with online therapy as in person. If anything, online can have better results because couples are able to be present for sessions more regularly whereas before, they may have had to miss sessions frequently which greatly impedes progress. Now couples are not putting off couples therapy for as long because they know that they can access it conveniently, easily, and from the comfort of their own home.