It seems there has been a movement in EFT lately, or perhaps it has always been a thing and it’s just news to me, that in order to do the best EFT, you need two swivel chairs instead of a couch. Well, I have a confession to make. I have a couch, and what’s more, I love my couch. I know this may be a dissenting opinion, so let me just say right here, right now that I think two swivel chairs are fine and I can imagine there are pros (and cons) for wanting this configuration. But let me just put a plug in for the couch, and while I’m at it, talk about the importance of catching and exploring body language.
In EFT, noticing and highlighting our clients’ body language can be an important part of our work; we can use it to provide us with deeper/richer information about each client’s experience (that we might file away in our back pocket for later) and/or we can use it to actively, in the moment, help us explore that deeper/richer client experience. Part of what we do in EFT is help people to notice their bodies, to notice what happens in their bodies when they feel safe, when they are connected, when their partner looks at them a certain way (good or bad); we help them to notice the ways they protect themselves, what their protection feels like, to notice themselves putting their protection on, taking it off, and to become aware of what messages their bodies are sending and what messages are received by their partners in all these moments. The couch, quite literally, gives the body more space to show itself, to move, hence giving us more information and limitless ways to go deeper with our clients.
Here are some ways to do that:
Noticing changes over time: A couple comes in for their first session and sit as far apart as they possibly can from each other on the couch, they lodge a pillow in between them like a wall or they grip one in their lap, or perhaps both. Before they even open their mouths to start to tell their story you have important information about this couple, about their level of safety with each other, and you can already be guessing that the ways they protect themselves—and the pain underneath—are powerful. Many sessions later (I won’t put a number on it!), this same couple comes in and sits a little more comfortably, they aren’t pressed into opposite corners, the pillows are not bricks between them and they don’t cling to one tightly as they try an enactment. One hand of each partner is resting on the cushion next to their legs, not quite loosely, but not clenched in a fist. They aren’t reaching across the divide for each other, but it feels like a tentative possibility. Then many sessions later, they come in and intentionally sit closer together, there is a narrow strip of space in between their legs on the couch, and they are holding hands. This is all wonderful fuel for our work, and even just noticing—and helping them notice—this movement over time, can be a springboard into deeper work. “Wow, you guys, even the way you are sitting makes me think you are feeling so much more connected, is that right? Do you remember when you first came in here, you were sitting so far apart on the couch, and now look at you, almost touching. Tell me what that feels like for both of you? What does that mean to you? What does it feel like inside of you when your partner is this close?” or “I’m just wondering, as I see you guys sitting so closely on the couch together today, where is your protection right now? What feels different right now that you don’t need it or that it is really small?”
Noticing ways they protect themselves in session:
“I notice that you are sitting as far apart as you can, which gives me an idea of how much pain you are both in, and I am wondering both about that pain and about the ways you might protect yourself from that pain right now in this room and at home. Can you help me with that?”
If a partner leans away in a moment, I might say, “I notice you leaned back a bit when your partner said ____ , did you notice that? Can you help me with what was happening for you right then?”
If a partner crosses his/her arms across their chest, “It seems like in that moment a part of you wanted a little bit of protection, can you help me with that? And I also wonder, and please let me know if I’m wrong, perhaps you were giving yourself a little bit of comfort, like a hug? Which might mean there is distress inside? Help me with that, with what is happening for you, because my guess is that a lot is happening underneath and all your partner might know/see in this moment—again, my guess—is the arms crossed.” (Unpack each piece of this slowly).
Noticing the tentative reaches, the tentative risks:
Notice, highlight, and unpack the little movements, the little reaches… the fingers that twitch towards the partner or the hand that creeps over when the partner is crying but then stops short of actually touching the partner. Catching that, highlighting both sides of that, wondering with the client about the positive intention, the risk of the reach, and also getting curious about the importance of the pause (fear?). “Help me with that. What was your hand wanting to say? If you could put words to that reach, what would they be? Do you notice that at home, the longing to reach and the worry or fear of doing it? When you are in your negative cycle, what often wins in the moment?” Wonder with the partner, “Did you notice his hand moving towards you?” (Often not). “What does that mean to you right now to hear that?”
In the same way, notice, highlight, and unpack other small movements, like the touch on the knee; the pat on the back; the hand that is draped across the top of the couch, covering the space between them, but perhaps not touching; the pillow that was on the lap but then is put down during session or during an enactment.
Noticing the body during enactments:
Notice, highlight, and unpack body language during enactments, for instance, the half-turn or the head turning but the body facing forward and not moving. “Your head turned but I’m wondering, you help me if this is not right, part of you, your body wasn’t ready, is that right? Can you help me with that? A part of you was trying, yes? But another part of you… hmmmm…. maybe was worried? Can you help me with both parts?” And then you can unpack what the partner felt, did they feel that the partner was trying or did they focus on the body staying forward… “Yes, of course, that makes sense, because we are wired to watch for danger, and so of course his body facing forward was what was bigger for you. I get that. And what happens in your body when you see that? Hmmmm, yes, which I wonder if that then confirms his worry about turning all the way. Yes? A little bit of a non-verbal cycle there, yes? So can we look together at the other part too, the part that was trying? What it is like to hear that part of him was trying in that moment?” (Again, unpack each piece of this slowly.)
And of course, notice, highlight, and unpack the full turn towards the partner (with a positive enactment!—*see note below about angry full turns). “Wow, you turned your whole body to tell him/her that! What was that like?” And (partner) what was that like to have him turn his whole body towards you and say that?”
Notice bonding moments:
This probably goes without saying, but notice, highlight, and unpack those rewarding, touching bonding moments, when a couple leans in together for a full hug, or they actively slide over to each other, or reach hands for each other and grab on… “What is it like to say this while holding your partner’s hand?” And partner, “What is it like to hear that while holding your loved one’s hand?” or “What was happening for you as you slid all the way over to him just now? Something so powerful pulled you right across the couch to him, help me with that.”
The couch gives more space for all these spontaneous and important movements to happen. *NOTE: The downside of having more space is that you might need to be more directive when they are angry and escalated and turn towards each other with venom in their eyes or on their tongue (but I guess couples can do that in swivel chairs too). You will have to be forceful, “Look at me, I want you to look at me, tell me about that, I really want to hear this, turn towards me and talk to me right now…”
So yes, I love my couch. But the wonderful thing about EFT is it lends itself so beautifully to different styles, different ways of being yourself (with your furniture!) with your clients. So whatever furniture or set up you have in your office, try to notice body language this week, and see if you can use it to deepen the moment and heighten the experience by highlighting it.
Let me know what you think! Have a wonderful week! 🙂