Emotionally Focussed Therapy for Couples in the Wake of Globalisation

Emotionally Focussed Therapy for Couples in the Wake of Globalisation

It is an era of globalisation. The world has become a small village connected closely by technological roots. While on one hand such a situation has blessed the mankind with utmost comfort, luxurious lifestyles and flourishing economies, while on the other hand it has led to increased levels of stress and competitiveness. In this constant rat race to achieve one’s dreams and to make through the daily life hassles, love and togetherness keeps one sane. Though togetherness acts a great support system for individuals, it can also lead to difference of opinions and arguments. Such arguments are a part and parcel of every romantic or marital relationship, and are considered healthy for emotional regulation and relationship building. However, the real problem stems in when the couple is unable to resolve the conflicts between them and start growing distant or bickering constantly. Hence many a times in the modern world today couples find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of conflict, of which they can’t seem to find a way out.

Some common issues that can act as an indication to opt for couple therapy are mentioned below.

1. Trust Issues

One of the most common reasons for couples to come in for therapy is their need for help to overcoming breach of trust. Trust issues are a result of manifestation of infidelity in the form of physical intimacy, emotional affair, a series of lies or deception about money. Rebuilding trust often requires a platform where the couple can come together and actively work on it.

2. Frequent Arguments

If you see yourself and your partner getting entangled in a series of frequent arguments which you can’t seem to get over and usually gets blown out of proportion, then it can be an indication for coming into therapy.

3. Poor Communication

Sometimes there might be no overt conflict, but you can still constantly feel misunderstood or ignored. Lack of communication of needs and wants often brings forth a gap in the bond.

4. You're not sure what or why something’s wrong

Sometimes you might feel that something in your marital dynamic has changed, but you can't really explain what it is or you find yourself not being as comfortable with your partner as you used to feel. Such changing dynamics can be an early sign of dysfunction. The therapeutic process can be helpful in dealing with these issues.

5. Revelation to your partner

A trained professional with a positive regard and comfortable presence along with the supportive nature of the therapy can often help couples overcome their fear of sharing something important with their partners, which they hadn’t been able to share previously and what might actually be causing trouble in their relationship.

6. Either one or both the partners become dysfunctional during a conflict

As it can be derived from the findings of Gottman and Silver (1999, 2015) research, the ways in which a couple handles conflict is often considered one of the best predictors of whether or not their relationship will last. If you see that you or your partner often shuts down, blasts out, gets passive-aggressive or vengeful during conflicts, which only seems to make the conflicts worse consider taking up therapy.

7. Negative life experiences have altered your connection with your partner

Many a time's traumatic life experiences not only hurt in itself, but can also affect one’s marriage or relationship. For instance, loss of a child, can trigger a sense of separation between the couple. During such difficult times, one might not think of couple therapy as there is already too much on their plate to stress about, but it is very important that during such hard times you work on strengthening your relationship because it only helps you with additional strength to cope with the loss or trauma.

8. Trapped in bad patterns

In a relationship, both partners develop various patterns ranging from eating, sleeping to division of household chores. A dysfunctional or dissatisfying pattern can make one spouse feel more burdened and might be infuriating to him/her. The longer a pattern is being followed, the harder it is to change. Therefore, starting early is the best option.

9. Problems in emotional intimacy

It is not very rare that two partner involved in a romantic or marital relationship feel that after they have been together for pretty long there is no romance left between them. Many of them start seeing their partner as a sense of responsibility than in a romantic manner. Sometimes this can be just because of the bid to get along daily life struggles they lose the ability to connect with each other or at other times it can be also because of severe problems in the relationship.

10. Problems in physical intimacy

Sexual issues can be seen as a twofold, that is, it can be both the cause and the symptom of problems in the relationship and often takes the forefront in a couple's daily complaints. Sometimes the change in sexual intimacy and satisfaction is very obvious and thereby frustrating for the couple; whereas sometimes it can be gradual decrease in sexual satisfaction and thereby reduced intimacy. Whatever the issue is, a skilled and competent therapist can help you and your partner to start working on it.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

Emotionally Focussed therapy (EFT) has its central focus on adult relationships, bonding and attachment issues. The therapist and clients observe and reconsider patterns in the couple’s relationship and work actively towards creating secure bond and developing trust with the ultimate goal of taking the relationship towards a healthier and more positive direction. An EFT therapist lays emphasis on the here-and-now responses of both the partners, and tracks and tries to enhance internal experiences as well as interactional moves and countermoves.

When to Use

EFT can prove to be effective for both couples and families in the phase of distress. Clients undergoing EFT can learn to work on and improve their relationships. EFT is often used for clients with trust issues, anger issues, fear or betrayal and other issues that threaten their relationships. Apart from these common couple problems, EFT is also significantly helpful for couples who experience distress and are unable to cope with their own illness or that of their child. Additionally, EFT can also aid in alleviating individual symptoms of depression and trauma in both partners.

What to Expect

An EFT therapist critically observes and analyses the relationship dynamics between couples in the therapy setting and translates this behaviour to their daily life dynamics. The therapist helps to develop new and more effective conversations and interactions based on honest inner feelings. To achieve this, the therapist might encourage the couple to evaluate their current emotional issues and also help to discover feelings and emotions that are latent. Some deep feelings and vulnerabilities, which can be blocked by the more immediate emotions that one displays in their current relationship, are also uncovered. Couples are allowed to understand how to express these emotions in a way that will help you establish a deeper and stronger sense of connect. It also helps to identify ways to listen actively and more effective ways of responding to emotional situations.

How It Works

The focus of EFT lies in the present and the couple in collaboration with the EFT therapist works to make changes in the "here and now" status of their relationship. There are three steps involved in the EFT process. The first step is to 'de-escalate' the couple’s negative cycle of interactions where both the partners observe and understand what is going wrong in their relationship. Clients come to realise that insecurities and distance is where all the problems are rooted in. The next step involves 'restructuring interactions', wherein the therapist facilitates clients to express their fears in the relationship using supportive language that brings the other closer. Clients are taught to step closer to each other and express their needs in order to make them more open and responsive to each other. 'Consolidation' is the final step of EFT. At this stage, the therapist facilitates clients to realise how negative patterns have become a part of their relationship and then highlights how they were successful in changing those patterns and give direction to future conversations.

What to Look for in an Emotionally Focused Therapist?

An EFT therapist in India is like any other qualified therapist is a RCI licensed mental health professional who has specialisation in or has done an additional diploma course training and experience in EFT. Around the world, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy provides certification to EFT therapists. But in India, the RCI license is more of a priority. In addition to checking the therapist’s qualification and credibility, it is important to look for an EFT therapist with who makes you and your partner feel comfortable working with.

How can one maximize the chances of a positive outcome?

Willingness to learn basic skills, become more self-aware and emotionally aware about each other are important factors that can lead to positive outcomes in EFT. Another important characteristic that can lead to positive outcomes from EFT is the ability to see and think of your partner as a team member rather than an opponent, working to achieve mutual relationship satisfaction. Promoting such a sense of partnership increases collaboration and facilitates both the partner’s willingness to be emotionally aware. Thirdly, the ability to empathise with your partner is also a pre-requisite. Lastly, another important factor that can ensure success in EFT is the willingness of each person to own their part in the problems as well as in contributing to the process of bringing about positive change.

In conclusion, it can be said that it is widely seen that most individuals come into couple therapy with a never ending list of complaints about their partner and have an implicit desire that the therapist validates their complaints and works on changing the behaviour and nature of their partner. However, though some of these complaints are often valid, things will never get better or no issues will be resolved unless both the partners in the relationship are ready for change and actively work in association with the therapist to modify their maladaptive behaviour patterns.

"RELATIONSHIP IS NOT AN OWNERSHIP, IT IS AN EQUAL PARTNERSHIP"

About the Author

Dr. Rita Rani Talukdar
Associate Professor and Head.

I am Associate professor and Head, Department of Psychology, Gauhati University

Leave a Reply