Tag Archives: Couples Counseling

Translating EFT into Christian Psychology? Publication notice


My friend and colleague Mike McFee (Eastern University) and I recently had an article published in the latest edition of the Journal of Psychology & Christianity (v. 30, pp 317-328). In it we tried to tackle how someone from a Christian Psychology perspective might interact with Emotion-Focused Therapy, a popular treatment protocol.

Here’s how we started our paper,

Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) is a rapidly growing treatment system offering empirically based treatment for couples and families. As with many current secular theories of psychology, EFT is embedded in humanistic assumptions which propose a few challenges to the Christian practitioner…. Using the methodology of Eric Johnson…this essay explores the practices of translating EFT into a Christian Psychology.

Next we identify a problem for counselors. We say that being christian and thinking christianly is supposed to influence all that we do. But, the truth is much of what goes on in Christian counseling doesn’t look that much different from counseling from markedly different ideologies. Both are compassionate and use similar techniques. The problem isn’t always bad integration but that we haven’t defined well the various levels of translation between two languages (i.e., humanistic founded EFT and Christian psychology).

The rest of the essay explores the two languages and 3 kinds of translation possibilities depending on the context and need, rather than is a one-size-fits-all approach. We conclude with a case example and actual dialog to show one kind of translation work.

What are the 3 kinds of translation? You’ll have to read if you want to know? There has to be SOME mystery, right?

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EFT Seminar in Philadelphia: 7/29/11


Those interested in learning more about Emotion Focused Couples Therapy might wish to take note of a local seminar being taught by a certified EFT trainer. My colleague, Anna Nicholaides, is helping to sponsor this and is hosting it at her office complex on Arch Street in Philadelphia. Cost is $115 ($150 for CEs) and includes lunch. Seminar runs from 9a to 4p. EFT is a validated couples treatment modality. If you are working with couples and having  a hard time softening them or de-escalating the conflict dance, you are likely to benefit from this seminar. See the HEALINGoneday6082011 flier and the registration Healing Relationships training registration[1] for more details.

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The root of conflict in couples?


We often say that most conflict between spouses boils down to money, sex, or power–and the first two are also all about power in the relationship. I think that is true. But, don’t forget that the power struggle may be less about the two people and more about a life-long pattern of feeling powerless  and unsafe in the world. In psychology terms we talk about this as the lack of secure attachment.

Here’s a few summary statements about attachment that I wrote up some time ago. I have no idea where these thoughts came from or why I wrote them so I apologize now for plagarizing them. They may well be my own thoughts or someone else’s…

1. Attachment injuries are often the culprit behind continuously conflicted couples.

2. Fights, then, are more symbolic than content driven.

3. Attachment insecurity precedes most conflict: the feeling of being alone, abandoned, rejected, etc.

4. Injuries usually are trauma based (or the perception of) in the present marital relationship or much earlier in childhood. There is a “violation of connection”

5. Two common problems result: (a) numbing, and (b) obsessional repeating/self-reminder of the experience of the violation. (example: the person repeatedly recalls the time 5 years ago that their spouse treated them as an object)

6. As a result of #5, the person experiences (a) and increased desire/”need” for a safe haven, but (b) lacks trust in the spouse, and (c) is vigilant for any sign of relational danger (i.e., reads ambiguous data in the worst possible manner)

7. The other spouse feels pushed/pulled at the same time and commonly physically and/or emotionally withdraws

8. The cycle perpetuates itself allowing both parties to solidify their labels for each other

9. The GOAL of therapy is to get a commitment to stop the cycle/script and to have each party soften towards each other so as to see the desires behind the emotion/behavior. If couples can see beyond the criticism or withdrawal to common desires of intimacy, they may be able to re-interpret and validate that desire while at the same time supporting a healthier way of expressing that desire.

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Filed under Communication, conflicts, counseling, marriage, Psychology, Relationships

Practicum Monday: Scott Stanley on Couple Conflicts


Last week in our staff meeting we listened to the end of Scott Stanley’s conference presentation on couples communication. You may remember I blogged previously on his funny but too-true analogy of dogs and marriage (We fall in love with the front end of the puppy/marriage, but they both have backs ends that need to be managed).

In this section of the presentation he makes this statement: events trigger issues. Couples tend to fight about events but really most conflicts are about issues that are deeper (e.g., Who gets the say around here, Do I have influence, Do you care, and other expectation clashes). The challenge is to get couples to see past events to the issues.

Problem: most couples only talk about issues during emotionally charged events. Why? It would be easy to say avoidance. But take that a step further. If the couple is no longer in conflict, why bring up something that is likely to trigger it? As Stanley says, “We’re really getting along right now, so I don’t want to screw it up by talking about a problem.” Seems good in the moment, but bad over time.

Stanley’s point is to deal with this problem by (a) handling events well (time out, staying in the moment, etc.), and (b) being proactive by maintaining safe, open communication about issues. This takes sacrifice, he says. Healthy sacrifice (not martyrdom) is pretty powerful and helpful in moving toward the desires of the other.

Here’s a couple of my thoughts:

Stanley has some great techniques and seems to have a good handle on what goes wrong in conflict. I think many couples can benefit from better care of the “back end” and making sure to remember and reinforce the front end as well. He rightly points out that we can easily miss the good sacrifices others do daily and then only recognize the good when it stops for some reason. If we’re not careful we take for granted the sacrifices of others and come to expect and even demand them as rights.

Stanley’s techniques seem not to work with couples where insight is low, trauma or violence has been a part of it, when folks have personality disorders, or when the couple are deeply entrenched in their bitterness towards each other. All events have meaning. The couple that is not willing to reconsider the meanings they apply to events (she is evil, that is why she leaves the kitchen that way), little couple work is possible. In fact, maybe even contraindicated. Techniques that should help become

weapons to hurt and destroy. Couple counseling is based on the capacity to observe self and other and to withhold judgment to see life from another perspective. Without this, it is hard to make much progress outside of painstaking experiential work.

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