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Phase 3 of Emotion Focused Therapy

Phase 3: Consolidation of Change

Step 8 New Solutions
Step 9 Consolidation

Phase 3 of emotion focused therapy entails resolving old problems, which are now easier and more naturally solved because the emotional “contamination” stemming from attachment conflicts is gone. Some problems are still managed, a la Gottman, but they are not so toxic, difficult, and demanding anymore. The therapist becomes much less directive, and lets the couple direct therapy until they are ready to leave. Future relapses, flare ups, etc… are discussed as inevitable, but easier to handle.

Impasses
Johnson and Greenberg, to their credit in designing a good theory, focus on successes in treatment, but also on failures and impasses. Here are some ideas for when progress seems stalled:

    • Try having some individual sessions with the partners to explore what’s not happening.
    • Use disinquisitions. The Inquisition was an active, painful, abusive uncovering of the truth. Disinquisitions are stories, fables, metaphors…. That invite introspection but don’t demand it. They are about the client, but not on the surface, and reflect client processes, but not directly and obviously. They normalize the couples’ experience by reducing it to a simple and universal struggle, and offer a new way of looking at issues without labeling things for the client. You can introduce them with, “I don’t know why this came to mind, but I was thinking of this story I heard once…” or “When I hear you say that, I get this image in my mind…”
    • Millikin offers he told a story of a little boy who was walking through the woods, and was very scared of the shadows. He met a girl who carried him to keep him safe from the shadows. She became tired, but he wouldn’t let her put him down. Eventually, she fell down and dropped him, and he was hurt. He thought she deliberately threw him to the ground to hurt him, and so in anger he kicked her. He limped away in one direction and she limped away in another.
    • Johnson gives an example of a wife who needed an emotional gun (her anger) in order to protect her, and without it she felt vulnerable. Metaphors like this offer solutions too, as she could understand that a person pointing a gun at her husband would not be approachable, and that she could holster her gun–not give it up and feel vulnerable, but learn to put it away for a time when she judged the situation as safe. Other examples include walking through fire, surrounding oneself with barbed wire, and the smell of burning martyr.
    • Look for an attachment injury that may be preventing forward movement. For these, coach:
      • the injured one to “stay with the injury” and own it
      • the mate to acknowledge it
      • the injured one to admit still being hurt, and to express a desire to move on toward healing but a need for help to do this
      • the mate to state their willingness to offer the help
      • the injured one to ask for what they need to move on
      • the couple to construct a new dynamic and story between them about what can be done to help heal the injury, and how they both are valiantly working together to overcome it and heal each other

To see the steps of emotion focused therapy again visit Phase 1 of EFT.