Therapeutic ImpasseSometimes in sessions with very challenging couples, I find myself internally questioning the viability of their relationship. Wondering if this couple would be better off divorced. Sometimes I become impatient and start pursuing the withdrawer to come forward or the pursuer to be gentler – and being a pursuer myself, this comes pretty easily for me. Sometimes I hear myself talking way too much, giving a bit of a lecture and leaving the EFT model behind.

While at these times it is easy to travel down my well-worn path of self-criticism, I have learned over time that these thoughts and behaviors are suggestive of an impasse that I need to address.

There are many reasons for impasses in EFT therapy. The couple may not have an emotional feel for their negative cycle – we have stayed too cognitive and not accessed primary emotion. There might be an underlying attachment injury. One partner may be continuing in an affair unbeknownst to their partner and myself. There might be echoes of trauma that have not yet been revealed. The therapist may have difficultly tolerating or working with strong emotion – so holds back and/or withdraws from the couple. And, the therapist may be inadvertently caught in the couple’s negative cycle, to name just a few. Clearly, impasses can come about for many reasons – some of which have to do with the couple and some of which have to do with the therapist.

So, how do we deal with these impasses and hold the hope for the couple? My growing edge as an EFT therapist is learning to be more and more transparent, thus more and more open and vulnerable with my couples. I make the impasse explicit and ask my couple to help me as we try to understand the “stuckness”.

When I suspect an individual issue is emerging, I might suggest individual sessions. If there has been an alliance breach or rupture, I address it honestly and openly and model repair. Sometimes I will pull out a blank EFT Cycle Form and fill it in as I did when I was learning EFT to shed light on where we are on the map and where the gaps of understanding still exist. I will review recent tapes.

Sometimes, despite all of this, the impasse remains. So I reach for supervision or consult with a peer. While such a conversation often sheds light on a blind spot or perspective that is new – more importantly the secure connection with a supervisor helps move me out of self-doubt and regain my footing so that I walk into my next session much more grounded.

The work we do is very challenging. We absorb so much pain that sometimes our own ways of coping get in the way of really being there for and with our couples. Having someone walk beside us calms our limbic system and helps us feel less alone in this work.

If any of this rings true for you, reach for a supervisor to validate, support and teach you how to be the best EFT therapist you can be.

Contact the Philadelphia Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy today.