As we deeply connect with that special someone and "fall in love" we hope that our relationship will continually grow especially since we bond in so many wonderful ways. Gradually as we begin to experience changes in our preferences, attitudes and personalities, we may wonder why these qualities which seemed to draw us together are now creating distance in our relationship. Rather than perceiving these differences as cause for alarm, they may be an invitation to grow & expand our personalities and help to define our true selves.
When partners call for an initial appointment the most common response when asked to describe a headline of where the couple needs help is “we need to learn to communicate better.” Actually conflict doesn’t destroy relationships, failure to emotionally reconnect does. If you love each other, you can also feel frustrated with each other. People influence each other in reciprocal patterns. When partners attack, blame, defend or withdraw in a seemingly automatic pattern, the consequential isolation is distressing to the couple. Disconnection is an attachment cue signaling threat or danger. Creating safe emotional connection between partners stabilizes and enhances the marriage. Love is being emotionally present. Effective couple therapy involves tracking patterns in which each partner gets trapped while uncovering the underlying emotions. Each person can explore the deeper meaning of their intimate conversations. Change occurs in therapy through a “Corrective emotional experience”. (Alexander and French)
A secure emotional connection offers a safe haven from the world and a secure base from which one can go out to the world. “Felt security” fosters autonomy and self-confidence. (Feeney, 2007) Needs for connection, comfort and caring are key. The more connected you are, the more separate, autonomous you can be. Emotional disconnection is at the heart of the conflicts or distancing that creates relationship distress. It literally hurts to be separated from our loved ones.
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) was conceptualized and primarily developed by Dr. Susan Johnson over the past three decades. It is based on the first coherent and substantially validated theory of adult love – attachment theory. The goals of EFT are: To expand and re-organize key emotional responses; To create a positive shift in partners interactional positions and patterns; and to foster the creation of a secure bond between partners. Research studies show excellent follow-up results with EFT, and some studies show that significant progress continues after therapy with EFT. (S. Johnson, 2016) If you want more information about EFT please go to this link to Sue Johnson's book for couples, Hold Me Tight. Dr. Johnson has also authored or co-authored two other books: Created for Connection (Christian perspective on EFT) and Love Sense (The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships). Couples may also find An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples by Kallos-Lilly and Fitzgerald as a beneficial resource. For a brief introduction to Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy please view this 11-minute animated YouTube video "Taming the Cycle" produced by a California colleague, Sharon Mead, LMFT.
Peter Nagel is licensed in North Carolina as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Peter is recognized as a Clinical Fellow and AAMFT Approved Supervisor of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy. Peter has completed a four-day Externship in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy with Lorrie Brubacher, LMFT at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is enrolled to participate in the EFT Core Skills Training with Lorrie Brubacher, LMFT and expects to complete this advanced training in March 2019.
During the initial session Mr. Nagel gathers information from the couple including concerns about their relationship as well as what relationship changes each partner longs for. The second sessions are individual appointments to gain rapport as well as a time for each partner to share his/her perspective of the relationship and his/her personal challenges to creating a secure emotional connection. During the third session Mr. Nagel shares personality adaptation profiles contrasting their similarities and differences which may challenge the couple to grow in ways that would enhance their relationship. Subsequent sessions will be arranged with both partners unless Mr. Nagel suggests or a partner requests an individual session.
If you would like to discuss other questions with Mr. Nagel or to schedule an appointment for Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, you may contact Peter at (336) 626-5989.
Enjoy this video from The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
(AAMFT) sharing the difference that marriage and family therapists make.