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!

Three Ways to Love Yourself This Valentine’s Day

valentines dayValentine’s Day can be difficult for many reasons. For some, it brings about loneliness, sadness, or self-aggression. When this happens, a powerful antidote can be the cultivation of self-love and self-appreciation. Here are a few ways to intimately connect with yourself this Saturday.

  1. Take your inner creative out on a date

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron offers the concept of the weekly “artist date,” as a crucial part of the creative life. Simply put, we take our inner artist, or our inner child, out on a date by setting some time aside, listening to his/her longings, following them, and having fun! On my first artist’s date, I felt nostalgic for my past home of Valparaiso, Chile. There, on free afternoons, I would often put on headphones and meander through the hilly city, letting my senses guide me to ocean overlooks or hidden pockets of street art. On my date, I decided to bring the ritual to Boulder, and aimlessly wandered the city for hours. I ended up back in front of old houses I had lived in during college—places I hadn’t revisited in many years. I let myself dance with old memories, while connecting with my gratitude for my current stage of life. It was a perfectly intimate and special day I could have only shared with myself. Try, for an afternoon, to touch into that intimacy you have with yourself—with the parts of you that only you can understand. If you are feeling nostalgic, revisit the past through old music, photos, or places. If you are feeling adventurous, try something you never envisioned yourself doing, just for kicks (it could be bungee jumping, but it could also be hanging out in a different part of town, test-driving fancy cars, or trying a spa treatment you’ve never heard of). If your soul is feeling hungry, take in inspiring art, or indulge your senses through a trip through a spice shop or a delicious meal. However you are feeling, have a special experience that only you will understand.

  1. Create a vision board

A vision board is a place for you to gather and clarify what you want to invite into your life. A simple way to start is by hanging up a corkboard (poster board can also work), and perusing magazines, books, or visual websites like Pinterest, paying attention to what images, words, or phrases stand out to you. From there, you cut/print them out and collage them onto your board. It can be difficult for us to know what we want with the next chapter in our lives, and a vision board is a great way to gain understanding of what your soul is longing for—what is to calling you. Vision-boarding is powerful because it puts you in touch with what you really want—a feat that can be difficult when noise from friends, family, and the media seem to want to tell you what you need and crave.

  1. Practice Maitri

Maitri, literally translated as “loving kindness,” is a Buddhist term that often refers to the practice of being unconditionally loving and friendly toward yourself in whatever experience you may be going through. This means that if you are feeling lonely, allow yourself to be lonely, remaining compassionate towards yourself as you have your experience. It means noticing when you want to be angry with yourself for feeling how you are feeling, and choosing to love yourself instead, acknowledging that your feelings are sometimes out of your control. There are times when we receive the message that to achieve happiness, we must transcend negative emotions like anger, jealousy, or fear. Practicing maitri teaches us that these emotions are normal and sane parts of ourselves, and we are whole and loveable, no matter what we feel. Here is a five-minute exercise to help cultivate maitri: Find a comfortable seat, and begin by closing your eyes and noticing your breath. Notice it just as it is, without any need to change it. If you notice your mind drifting away, simply come back to your breath compassionately, without judging yourself. Rest your attention here for a moment. Now scan your body from head to toe, noticing where you may be holding tension or emotion. Take a moment to acknowledge this part of yourself, again, without any need to change it. Let it be just as it is. Imagine that it is a physical mass of energy, and you are able to wrap your arms or a blanket around it to comfort and love it. Ask it if it needs anything else, and imagine yourself giving that thing to it.

Welcome to our new office!

Atacama Counseling has officially moved! It has been a hectic but exciting process to set up our new office on 30th and Pearl. Here’ s a sneak peak at the space…

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Come visit!

A Word of Gratitude

upThis weekend, a training in Motivational Interviewing left me with a deep sense of gratitude. Sure, I was grateful for having a fun way to learn and practice helpful skills. I was grateful for the generosity of the trainer, who has been an amazing colleague and wonderful support for me in my professional development. I was grateful to be spending time with a group of wise and talented therapists and coaches over tasty scones and cherry juice.

But what left the deepest impression of gratitude was the continual reminder of the beauty and resilience of my clients, and how sacred it is to be invited into their life journeys.

Motivational Interviewing is a wonderful approach to therapy that calls on the wisdom of the client to move toward the changes they feel compelled towards making. And the therapist is lucky enough to be a travel agent and a guide in this profound process. As we learned new skills and reviewed the ones I had already been practicing, I thought of all of the growth and existential shifts I had been a part of over the last year with my clients. That I have had the blessing of knowing, over and over, on the most intimate level, how resilient the human spirit is.

Thank you to those of you I have worked with. It has truly been an honor.

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Página en español veniendo pronto! Para aprender mas sobre mis servicios, llame (720) 515-5184 o mande un email a rachaeluris@gmail.com.
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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