NP006 Couples Therapy: Today and Tomorrow

This blog focuses on discussion regarding the course, NP006 Couples Therapy: Today and Tomorrow

NP006, Couples, Session 4, Sue Johnson


Welcome to Session 4 of Couples Therapy Today and Tomorrow with Sue Johnson, the originator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). In this session, Johnson will explore the basic principles of EFT, the most empirically validated approach to couples work.

Johnson will discuss how attachment theory informs the dynamics of couples’ issues, how to develop a systematic treatment plan to intervene with couples, how to restore a sense of calm in couples relationships, and how to interrupt destructive cycles in relationships.

We encourage you to participate in the Comment Board as a forum to reflect on what you’ve learned and to share any relevant experiences with couples therapy, discuss what was most interesting to you, and ask any questions you may have. Thank you for your participation and for your comments, as the Comment Boards are an extremely important part of the webcast experience.


06.27.2011   Posted In: NP006 Couples Therapy: Today and Tomorrow   By Psychotherapy Networker
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  • -0.1 avatar Julie Gallinat 06.30.2011 13:11
    Very good! Thank you both so much. As an Imago therapist, I'm thinking of a very reactive couple that I'm currently working with who are unable to be in an Intentional Dialogue and how working with them in this way (first one and then the other in a rhythmic fashion) could be very useful ... a sort of pre-dialogical approach.
  • 0 avatar Morgan Murray 06.30.2011 17:18
    I really enjoyed this very much. I am thinking of a couple where the husband in particular tries to stay on an intellectual plane and wants to make a case for why his wife should change to meet his needs. The wife withdraws and acts like she does not care. I think EFT could really unlock this log jam of unexpressed emotion.
  • Not available avatar carol ottogalli 07.01.2011 13:28
    Really enjoyed what you had to say. Was aware that the amygdala was our emotional part of the brain. Also, understood how we respond to another's emotion. What was missing was the "why" one might react that way, and you helped to clarify that. Is it possible that if one did not have that deep emotional connection with a parent(s), that when a relationship struggles for connection a person feels the threatened sense of safety more acutely?
  • Not available avatar Julie Bellamy 07.01.2011 18:37
    The things that got big red stars by them in my notes: 1)One person's survival response often triggers the same in their partner, 2) Suppression of emotion is a fragile strategy, and usually results in higher arousal, 3) all emotion is adaptive, 4) that the human need for connection is bigger/more than sex/aggression or any other need (video with baby awesome!)and 5) therapist as surrogate for couple's emotions. Very helpful, one constructive comment, the slides were too small to read. Thank you both for sharing!
  • Not available avatar karry richardson 07.03.2011 04:51
    a bit of a late comer to this - absolutely fantastic - all made sense to me. Good to connect it to the recent neuroscience - augments all the work i'm involved in in emotional intelligence here in edinburgh. Will be checking out both websites to learn what, if any EFT training can be accessed this side of the pond. Many thanks: Many thanks for sharing this is such a warm digestible way.
  • Not available avatar leticia tayabas 07.03.2011 22:51
    Thank you again for this wonderfull webminar, your generosity and knowledge are amazing. I think that we as therapists have to be re-trained in dealing with our own emotions in order to be accesible and accepting of our clients, so back to work with ourselves and with our own (very human as you say) fears.
  • Not available avatar Eric Nichols 07.04.2011 12:28
    Very fine webinar! I found particularly helpful the idea of giving people an emotional map so they do not feel so bewidered and overwhelmed by their strong emotions. This makes so much sense. I also very much like the focus in this therapy on attachment theory. The central importance of our need for connection with another human being or beings is for me, a sixty-something-year-old therapist with many years of life and therapy experience, where it's at! Thank you for doing this fine series.
  • Not available avatar monica Evans 07.04.2011 16:35
    How fantastic, what a great vehicle for hearing and seeing, for free, some of the worlds best therapists. EFT is a wonderful tool, provided a 'secure base' with the therapist is developed. How great would it also be to use IMAGO therapy as a tool to build a secure base between couples also. WOW!
  • Not available avatar Sallyanne Johnson 07.05.2011 11:17
    A simple yet very complex way of getting to the root of couples' negative interactions, and I like Sue's focus on attachment in this process. She creates not just a map of emotions for clients, but it seems (her reference to Level 2) also a map for clinicians utilizing EFT. Thank you Sue!
  • Not available avatar Nancy Henningsen 07.05.2011 11:44
    Very useful comments esp about helping couple key into their own history of attachement. In one couple I'm seeing, the man is very focussed on misreading criticism in his wife's reactions...or hearing it when she says anything to him. She does not always "get this". Would it ever be appropriate for me to email her separately to be more alert to this? I have tried to reframe but their daily interactions are locked into a negative dance.
  • 0 avatar Catriona Lyon 07.06.2011 06:38
    Hi, thanks for this. I was struck by the similarities to person centred therapy but in the context of couples work. Certainly I think it underlines the importance of therapists undergoing their own personal therapy so that they can be aware of their own emotions and the roots of their own fears and panics. I will definately look up the website and enjoy learning more.
  • Not available avatar jay schlechter 07.07.2011 18:57
    Ah! A good partner
    One who can follow and lead
    And knows the tango
  • 0 avatar clare coyle 07.08.2011 10:38
    Excellent webinar. EFT makes so much sense even/especially in England! Very many thanks.
  • Not available avatar Kathy Hardie-Williams 07.12.2011 03:02
    Hi Susan....I am a MFT and have long been interested in learning the technique of emotionally focused couples therapy. I am currently reading, "Hold Me Tight" and can hardly put it down!

    I started out working with a particular couple. He has severe narcissistic tendencies, is passive/aggressive, and takes the 'victim' role. Given that he didn't think he needed therapy, she has started coming individually. She feels she is ready to leave the marriage; he knows this and his behavior is escalating (high drama, manipulative, needy but then angry when that doesn't work, avoids taking responsibility, etc.) She is not hostile and would like the relationship to end as cordially as possible, especially given that they have two children (13 and 7). How would you facilitate a dialogue between them, particulary given that he would not see any benefit to attending a session (if he were to come for a session, his presence would need to be solicited)?


    Kathy Hardie-Williams, M.Ed, MS, NCC, MFT
  • Not available avatar Kathryn Wilusz 07.17.2011 13:02
    Thank you Susan, and thank you, Richard/Psychotherapy Networker, for giving me the opportunity to see/hear yourselves in this Webinar on EFT w/ Couples. Believe it or not, my first therapeutic workshop in the early 80`s was on this w/ Susan and another individual. I learned so much then and this was renewed again this afternoon.Am in Ireland,but have been involved in new Attachment Theory w/ Dr.Una McCluskey(of York) and your therapeutic work dovetails so well. Also,... Brought up personal memories, both sad and joyful. Many thanks again.
  • Not available avatar merrilee gibson 07.18.2011 18:45
    I am coming to this presentation very late, weeks after original presentation. I still want to express appreciation for very powerful presentation. Susan Johnson is so grounded in what she does, it inspires me just to hear her speak. I find her comments about attachment issues to be applicable to other areas besides couples work. For example, I am currently working with a child with attachment issues, and I found the information in this presentation to be helpful for me in thst work. Again, thank you so much.
    Merrilee Gibson, LMFT
  • Not available avatar Peggy Grose 08.12.2011 06:04
    My specialty is interpersonal communication and this session is a very helpful component and an augmentation to what I do. I really enjoyed it.
    Peggy Grose
    Austin, Texas
  • 0 avatar Nancy Ross 09.07.2011 13:08
    Thanks Susan for your clear helpful description of EFT. Some of my work is with couples who have passed beyond repair and have decided to divorce. In the Collaborative Divorce Team model, I want to help them connect with their new co-parenting relationship and use many of the concepts you have suggested. Any other thoughts as to how to use your method to help people become "whole" when their actual attachments have failed? Nancy Ross (co-founder Collaborative Divorce).
  • 0 avatar Denny McGihon 09.07.2011 13:10
    Interesting session. Very different from David Schnark in one way althugh I think he helped clients deat with denial as she does. I think it would be usefulto have some discussion of previous sessions. Incidentally this was #5 not# 4.
  • Not available avatar Kay Harkins 09.07.2011 13:22
    As Denny has just said, I thought oh my gosh I must be in the wrong webinar because it said #4. I went back to check and make sure. I thought this was really good clinical info regarding couples work. Thank you.
  • Not available avatar Ronit Gross 09.09.2011 13:02
    Thank you Susan, I really appreciated the discussion. I would love to get your take on David Schenarch's work and how or if you feel it resonates with EFT--particularly in that while it seems that both advise honest self-revelation and acceptance of said revelations and then communication of these truths to your partner- Schenarch's focus seems to be less on the mammalian need for attachment and reflection from an other and more on self-attunement as the means as well as the end with the belief that the rest will fall into place if we can stay differentiated. I would love to know EFT's thoughts on these differences if you see this as well. Also, I would like to know if there are couples who consistently have difficulty with this model or what you can do in a couples environment when one person is simply too rigid or chaotic to be able to access emotion-even when you are pointing out their physical responses, etc. I would also like to know how infidelity or physical or sexual abuse within the relationship would be handled through EFT.

    Thanks so much for your time and discussion!
    • Not available avatar Rachel Aarons 09.11.2011 19:04
      I'd be interested in this topic as well - ie. Sue's response to Schnarch and differentiation-based therapy.
  • Not available avatar Kate Creedy 09.10.2011 14:25
    I found this a very helpful discussion of how to work with emotions with people in distress. I teach on a child focused training in family and systemic psychotherapy and taking forward the early attachment patterns that may be laid down and carried into adult relationships was great. The capacity of the therapist to tolerate high levels of negative emotion and act to slow down and enable them to be understood by the "other" is hard to describe often in therapy but was eloquently described here. When working with child protection, I have found the ability to contain painful and unprocessed rejection and hurt between and within parents and children, and sit with it long enough to bear it and find ways to be with it in a less toxic way, has been crucial to the therapeutic process. It is useful to have found a theoretical model that can de-construct and re-construct the way emotions can be processed in the therapy room as well as connect early attachment patterns with the ability in adult relationships to heal some of the early hurts experienced in childhood. It seems to me to allow for hope in emotional terms to enter into the therapy room and challenges the view of early attachment patterns as being static and unchanging.
  • Not available avatar Msgdalini Agrafioti 09.12.2011 15:59
    I attended Susan Johnson's interview twice because she presents her model in such a clear and caring way. The two phases of therapy, one to create a safe emotional environment and two to help people to create more coherent articulation of emotions and new interaction patterns is most valuable to know.
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