Learning Emotionally-Focused Therapy

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A little over a week ago, I attended a four-day intensive training in Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT). Around seventy therapists sat in a windowless conference room, nestled against the rain and flood warnings pitter-pattering the cell phones we had agreed to tuck away for the sake of presence and connection. Banana bread and popcorn nourished us as we grew in understanding of the practice and in warmth towards one another. I was able to get to know some of my fellow trainees well, while others didn’t get a chance to meet. Still, by the end of our time, the room felt safe and intimate; there was a sense of the human bond running between us. It reminded me of sitting together with strangers to witness the wedding of mutual loved ones; though many of us did not know each other, what we had shared brought us to drink in the same joy, hopefulness, and love that we had all felt. And in that sharing, we had opened in connection to one another.

It is always hard to explain the inspired exhaustion that follows a good psychotherapy training. The best trainings I have attended stir their way into me so that I understand them in all layers of my being, from the cerebral down to the emotional, personal, and primal. When learning EMDR, this meant watching my own hidden shadows move and shift within the somatic realms of my body and mind, as I rode emotional waves into greater peacefulness. In the art therapy trainings and consultations I have attended, it has meant expressing my own feelings and experiences that have been silenced in colors, shapes, and symbols; I have always left with a greater understanding of myself. This is what Contemplative Psychotherapy is all about; it is my mission to continually get to know myself and my emotional process so that I can be as fully present and empathetic with my clients as possible.

It would make sense that an emotionally-focused therapy training would leave me feeling warm, close, and connected with those around me. EFT is based in attachment theory, with bonding at its center; it guides couples (and individuals) in shifting away from destructive cycles and disconnectedness by fostering the safety for each to vulnerably express his/her needs and emotions, creating a secure bond. Through EFT, this bond becomes reliable, consistent, and a source of support and strength. This not only helps the communication in relationships, but it attends to some of the most basic, primal needs as humans. In this way, it is holds great potential to heal mental illness and emotional suffering.

Each training day of lectures, watching sessions, and practicing/receiving EFT with my colleagues, I found myself in a place of more profound openness and connection, not only with those around me, but with my own loved ones outside of our cozy conference room. I felt increased appreciation, empathy, and curiosity towards my own partner’s experience in our marriage, and have found myself in deeper appreciation for the relationship we have built together. The experience has made me even more excited to bring this beautiful healing modality to my clients as I continue to grow from it, both personally and professionally.

Thank you to Jim Thomas, Lisa Palmer-Olsen, and the Colorado Center for Emotionally-Focused Therapy for a great externship experience!

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Rachael Uris, MA, LPC is the owner of Atacama Counseling, LLC, offering sex therapy as well as individual and couple's counseling for issues surrounding sexuality, love, and pregnancy. All services are located in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and are provided in English and Spanish.
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