Betsy Ellis, LCMHC | (802) 999-9026
Betsy Ellis, LCMHC | (802) 999-9026

Emotionally Focused Couples Counseling

Romantic Relationships can be very difficult and distressing at times.

Couples in distress may think or feel any of the following:

  • We try to talk, but end up in a miscommunication or an argument.
  • Things seem fine for a while, but then we argue and end up feeling disconnected. It’s like a roller coaster.
  • My partner pulls away in anger, silence, or both.
  • I‘ve been feeling lonely, unheard, misunderstood, shut out, rejected, criticized, unloved, hopeless, or overwhelmed.
  • You don’t hear me. You don’t understand me. I don’t feel like you know me and/or love me.
  • We feel like roommates more than romantic partners. Sex is rare, nonexistent, or lacks feeling.
  • Work, children, and other responsibilities have taken over both of our lives.
  • If my partner would change, then we would be ok.
  • I’ve been trying hard to fix things, but nothing seems to work.
  • We seem to be growing apart from each other.
  • I feel betrayed: emotionally, sexually, or financially. How can I trust you again?
  • I’m afraid we may be headed for separation or divorce if nothing changes.

When you’re unable to communicate and connect with your partner, it’s normal to feel confused, isolated, angry, sad, or a mixture of these. You want to improve your relationship, and sometimes it does get better. But then you’re back to disconnecting or arguing again, and you wonder: “Why can’t we make this work? We used to be so good together.” The problems don’t get resolved; they get swept under the carpet. Walls go up between you, and you don’t know how to fix it. You feel stuck.

It’s normal to have highs and lows when you are in a relationship with a significant other, but sometimes there may be frequent or chronic disconnection. The reason for this may not be inherently obvious. It may not even be one issue, but rather an accumulation of different things: work, children, in-laws, sexual miscommunication, finances, medical issues, betrayals, parenting, addictions, or substance use. It’s also common to have the same argument over and over. The topic may change, but the way you argue is the same. One person may frequently press an issue and/or criticize, while the other may stonewall or withdraw.

The stress that comes from new life transitions can also have a major impact on a relationship. If you and your partner recently had a baby, are caring for aging parents, or are simply two people dealing with the everyday hustle and bustle, your relationship may take a back seat. When you are both being pulled in so many different directions, it’s common to feel distance from your loved one. As relationship problems persist, they often worsen, and the fear of losing your partner becomes overwhelming. Sometimes couples get to a point where they get “triggered” or angered by their partner, resulting in terrible distress. Whether you are at the beginning, the middle, or the end of your tolerance for the state of your relationship, getting help – especially professional help  – can be a life-saver.

Your relationship needs some attention and maybe some healing. Even if the problems haven’t persisted for very long, it’s never too soon to get help. Taking time to really work on your relationship and resolve the issues can bring about lasting change, build security, and lead to more joy in life. Isn’t that what we’re all after – a strong, fulfilling, and mutually supportive relationship, with lots of happiness and fun? I often say that couples counseling is an investment into your future: for you, for your relationship, for your kids (if you have them), and for your whole life! You are definitely worth it – we are all worth it!

You may have tried couples counseling before, and it didn’t work enough or not at all. But there is a way to restore the gap in your relationship, heal wounds, and learn how to communicate and connect to each other to transform your life together.

Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples 

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a specialized approach to couples counseling. It is a unique and cutting-edge approach that can heal your relationship and re-establish lost emotional and/or physical intimacy. It was formulated by Sue Johnson in the 1980’s, and is now used around the world, with even further developments for use with individuals and families. It is research and evidence based, and is proven to be effective for the long haul. (See “About” section for specific details on rates of effectiveness.)

Attachment Theory is a main tenet of EFT. Research shows that secure attachment is the key to relationship success across the life span. The concept of attachment has been consistently proven to play a central role in security, well-being, self-confidence, and happiness.  As human beings, we need a strong and healthy attachment to our caregivers as we grow up. This need for attachment and security doesn’t disappear once we reach adulthood. We need a secure attachment with our partners to feel bonded; to feel safe; to feel free to be our authentic selves, and to be able to say anything to our partners and feel understood, accepted, and loved. A secure attachment has also been proven to enhance your life outside of your relationship by providing a secure base from which to embrace the world. You can develop a stronger sense of confidence and an increased ability to thrive and flourish.

EFT helps couples learn to become aware of and understand their relationship struggles. Each person will expand their self-awareness as well as develop increased empathy for each other. They learn to communicate with tenderness and understanding. Session by session, the hurts are healed, and perspectives are transformed with trust and connectedness.

EFT Can Heal What Hurts & Guide You to Reconnect

EFT is an effective approach in that it shows couples how to slow down rather than respond quickly in anger or frustration. Rather than trying to “solve” a problem, it instead focuses on how to understand and meet the unique desires of each partner, bringing your longings and fears into the conversation. When these aspects are the focus, the solutions to the problems come from a balanced, respectful, and mutually empathic mindset. The relationship then becomes mutually supportive and loving. 

In my experience as a couple’s specialist, everyone longs to feel loved and cherished by their partner. As human beings, we long for acceptance and connection. EFT is particularly effective because it helps each of you slow down, get clarity, and express what is in your heart. We expand on your strengths and give you repeated experiences in the session to show you how to reach to your partner as a ‘resource’ of comfort. This results in a deep feeling of connection and love – and it will most likely have a positive effect on your sex life.

Couples I’ve worked with report that their relationships have had significant improvement during and after completing EFT. Once you learn how you got “stuck” in your relationship and learn new ways to relate to one another, you are less likely to return to that frustrating place. EFT counseling has proven to also be successful with high-stress couples, such as those affected by military deployment, PTSD, dealing with ill children, infertility, depression, anxiety, and substance use/abuse. It is also effective with survivors of traumatic childhoods or traumatic life experiences. Rather than focusing on changing specific thoughts and behaviors, EFT focuses on changing emotional responses: replacing feelings of frustration and impatience with increased understanding, sensitivity, and empathy.

I’ve been a therapist for more than 25 years. EFT couples counseling works. With my expertise and your willingness to engage in the counseling process, EFT can strengthen and enhance the foundation of your relationship. You’ll find yourselves laughing again, feeling excitement, security, and deep love. You both can walk away from therapy feeling confident in your relationship and empowered in your overall life.

You May Have Some Concerns About Couples Counseling

My partner doesn’t want to come.

If your relationship is unsatisfactory, chances are you are both feeling isolated. It’s worth trying to talk to your partner about seeking help. You never know if something is going to work until you give it a try. Consider asking your partner to give it a try – just two or three sessions – before deciding that counseling isn’t for you.

You can try to explain some of the broader benefits of therapy. For example, if you have children and are fighting all the time, EFT can be especially helpful, as it can teach you to model healthier, more loving behavior to your kids. 

You can also think of counseling as an investment. Your marriage has value just like your 401k. Wouldn’t it be great if you both journeyed through life feeling the benefits of a sustained investment into your relationship? You will create relationship stability and mutual support through to old age together.

I also recommend showing your partner some of the information about the effectiveness of EFT found in my “Welcome” section. You can also show them the videos I have within the “EFT” page.

If you can’t get your partner to attend couples counseling sessions, you should seek individual counseling because you’re hurting, and you deserve support. I only work with couples, but I would be happy to recommend someone when appropriate.

We’ve tried counseling before, and it didn’t work.

While traditional relationship counseling has been common, Emotionally Focused Therapy is becoming the norm. It’s not just another round of counseling you’ll be trying – EFT is revolutionary and different because it focuses on bonding and attachment and how that benefits your relationship, as opposed to just conflict management and problem solving.

We don’t have time for EFT counseling.

Making counseling a priority will eventually give you peace of mind. I encourage you and your partner to research the success rate of EFT, and how it has changed the lives of so many couples. Think of counseling as an investment in your relationship’s future.

What should I be looking for in a therapist? Why work with you?

You should work with someone who has experience and instills the feelings of confidence, safety, and comfort.

I am passionate about EFT. I want to help lower the national divorce rate. I believe the couple is the core of the family and the crux of our society. If the couple isn’t happy, how can the family be happy? How can you teach your kids to have happy relationships? So many couples live together focusing on survival, but aren’t thriving. Don’t we all need and want to be happy? A loving bond is the basis of a happy relationship and family. You both deserve to be happy. I can help.

I am a couple’s specialist. I only work with couples. I’ve been a therapist for over 25 years. I’ve been specializing in couples since 2012 when I discovered EFT. I engage in ongoing EFT training to further my knowledge and skills. I’ve done EFT with my partner – I know it works!

I encourage you and your partner to try just 3-5 sessions to see whether it’s right for you.

Your Relationship Can Transform, Deepen and Grow

If you have additional questions about EFT for couples, I invite you to give me a call (802) 999-9026. I can answer any questions you may have. My practice is located in Burlington, VT and is open to all couples, gay or straight, in any stage of their relationship.