Couples/Marital Therapy

* Have intimacy and passion disappeared from your relationship?

* Does it seem like you keep having fights without anything changing?

* Do you feel like your partner doesn’t understand you?

* Have you become like roommates to one another?

* Has your relationship been hurt by an affair?

* Do you find yourselves fighting about money issues all too regularly?

* Do you feel like you have to hide purchases from your partner?

If the answer to one or more of the above questions is yes, then a specialized version of couples therapy, called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), may be the answer for you and your partner.

My name is Lee Schneyer, Ed.D., M.B.A. I am a licensed psychologist with over 30 years of experience in couples therapy. Although I had been trained in numerous other couples therapies, I never found one that consistently worked. In 2006 I did a review of the research literature on couples therapy and came across incredible research on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). The study that particularly impressed me was a 2 year post-treatment study conducted with parents of chronically ill children. Talk about a group that has to deal with crises on a regular basis. Their children had severe asthma, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses. They had regular visits to emergency rooms. But for those couples who successfully completed EFT couples therapy, two years after completing treatment the couples described themselves as highly satisfied with their marriages. I had never seen an independent post-treatment study with this kind of success. My immediate reaction was that this was a technique I had to learn.

In 2006, I began training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and it transformed my practice. With other therapies, I had to find a unique road map for each couple, equivalent to re-inventing the wheel each time. But with EFT, the strategy for treatment is already laid out. I have continued training in EFT and am now a certified EFT therapist.

What is EFT?

EFT is a short-term, 20-50 session treatment that focuses on the emotional connection between the partners. It is a highly structured treatment, consisting of three phases with a total of nine steps. Unlike other couples therapies, it not only has clear techniques, but also a road map of how to help couples move from an insecure connection to a secure one. EFT is based on the premise that a marriage is an emotional connection, so when there are problems in the marriage, it means that the emotional connection has become insecure. EFT teaches couples: 1) how to slow down and tune in to their emotional reactions to one another; 2) how to share their emotional reactions with their partner in such a way that their partner can hear them rather than reacting defensively.

How effective is EFT?

There are lots of versions of couples therapy, but EFT is the most effective of the ones that have been subject to independent verification. Studies indicate that it is effective in 75-85% of highly distressed couples. Thousands of couples have been successfully treated with EFT. And post-treatment studies indicate that couples who successfully complete EFT continue to enjoy highly satisfactory marriages years after the conclusion of treatment.

Who designed EFT?

EFT was designed by Susan Johnson, Ed.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, in 1981. For the past 30 years, Dr. Johnson has been researching and refining the techniques of EFT.

Is there homework?

EFT is an experiential, emotionally focused treatment. Sessions are one hour in length. There is rarely any “homework”.

How do you handle arguments and conflicts?

Conflict is inevitable in relationships. This means neither party is solely to blame for marital problems. The goal of EFT is not to prevent conflict, but to teach couples the emotional skills to successfully navigate conflict on their own. You do not need to worry about sessions spinning out of control as I do not allow partners to verbally abuse one another, as can happen in other less structured approaches.

How will we know if it is working?

At each session couples we discuss which step we are working on and what we need to do to get to the next stage of treatment.

Can we learn to resolve financial conflicts and/or parenting conflicts?

As a psychologist with an MBA in Finance, I am experienced in helping couples resolve financial disputes. And my original training as a child psychologist enriches my ability to mediate different approaches to parenting of children and adolescents.

Can EFT help couples where one partner has an alcohol or substance abuse problem?

EFT has been shown to be an effective motivator to help the partner who is struggling with alcohol or substance abuse to seek individual treatment. Couples can complete Stage 1 of EFT, but cannot move on to Stage 2 until the impaired partner is able to control their substance abuse.

What if one or both partners has a trauma history/been abused?

EFT has been shown to work effectively with couples where one or both partners have a trauma history. It is not a primary treatment for trauma, but it can help the couple create a secure connection. The length of treatment is approximately doubled as we have to go much slower in Stage 2.

Does EFT work for everyone?

The only couples who are not appropriate candidates for EFT are those couples where there is active marital violence or a severe threat of physical violence. EFT is not appropriate for these couples as partners are asked to share their vulnerabilities with each other, which can trigger violence in couples where such tendencies already exist.

What happens in Stage 1 of EFT?

Research indicates that 80% of couples are what we call pursue-withdraw. This means that when one partner gets anxious or upset, he or she tends to try and connect with the other, though often in a critical or blaming way. The other partner when upset tends to withdraw, sometimes after briefly lashing out at his or her partner. In 10% of couples the partners may vacillate in these roles; the remaining 10% of couples are withdraw-withdraw. Most couples have the experience that they can get into an argument within a few seconds. In EFT we call these “cycles” and in steps 1 and 2 we focus on unwinding those intense 5-10 second periods so that the couple no longer gets stuck in these negative cycles. We then move in steps 3 and 4 to exploring the feelings underneath the anger and tension that exists within each partner.

What happens in Stage 2 of EFT?

We begin in steps 5 an 6 by working intensely with the partner who regularly withdraws to get them to stay engaged even when anxious. Once they have developed this emotional skill, then we move to the most critical step of treatment, step 7 “blamer softening.” In this step we work with the critical pursuer to help him/her learn to ask for what they need without anger or hostility. Research indicates that if couples successfully complete step 7, then their marital relationship becomes positive and secure.

What happens in Stage 3 of EFT?

Step 8 consists of exploring other issues that have caused problems for the couple, such as parenting concerns, household responsibilities, and money problems. Research has demonstrated that once a couple’s attachment has become secure, they are able to quickly and easily resolve problems that may have seemed insurmountable a few months before. Step 9 is a review of the treatment and a summary of the emotional skills the couple have learned to prevent a relapse.

What is the cost of couples therapy?

Sessions are one hour in length and the fee is $250, payable by Visa or MasterCard. If you have out of network outpatient mental health coverage, your insurance company may cover a portion of the fee. I will provide you with a monthly invoice to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.

What does it mean to be certified as an EFT therapist?

Dr. Johnson and her colleagues at the International Center for Excellence in EFT have set up a rigorous process for therapists to achieve certification in order to make sure that high standards of quality are maintained. In brief the process involves many hours of formal training, study, and both individual and group supervision.