It’s hard to be an EFT couples therapist. Powerfully rewarding, absolutely. But hard. And I’m not talking about in the obvious ways. I’m not talking about the times in my office in which the hour is up and I feel completely wrung out as the couple leaves and I reach for my cold coffee. I’m not talking about the ways that sometimes puts me in the crosshairs of intense anger, the kind that requires me to roll my chair in close (when most mortals are backing up) and literally insert myself in between two people baring teeth.

No. And I’m not talking about the times in my office when one partner is being truly vulnerable, perhaps for the first time in their life, and they turn to their partner with a heartfelt expression of longing or loneliness and the partner sits back with disdain and crossed arms and a cutting comment.  

And I’m not talking about the times when I am sitting with and absorbing incredible sadness—a deep mourning of self or relationship, the hurt of past wounds, the grief of present blocks or of lost opportunities. Or when we feel into the pain of unbearable trauma.

No, I’m not talking about the hard work we do in our offices. I’m talking about how hard it can be to be an EFT couples therapist outside of the office.

I’m talking about the times at a party when people want to talk about the work I do; maybe it comes in an innocuous question or maybe someone has sought me out to ask about it.  And I love my work, I love to talk about it, and so suddenly I am passionately describing negative cycles and using my hands to outline an invisible infinity loop above the guacamole. And then I realize—sheepishly—oh wow, I’ve just gone on and on. And people are interested (I think), but I’ve gone on too long. And, as much as it may have lit me up, now I am in “work mode”. I came here to get away from it all; I put on non-waterproof mascara with the intention of getting away from love and pain and attachment and negative cycles (even as I know we can never get away from love and pain and attachment and negative cycles). But sometimes, after a week of deep-diving into the nooks and crannies of other peoples’ hearts, that’s what I need. Sometimes I need to talk about chocolate cake and vacation and someone else’s job and Game of Thrones.

I’m also talking about the times when a friend is struggling and wants to talk about their relationship. They are coming to me as a friend and not as a couples therapist, but because I am both, it’s a blurry line. Part of me is just a friend and I want to listen and provide a sympathetic shoulder, but even the intense way I listen can be like switching on the therapist in me. Then add in that I often can’t help but hear the negative cycle in play, and perhaps I even hear how my dear friend might be making things hard for herself. Or I can hear my friend’s partner’s position in the cycle and can guess at his underlying pain. Do I share that? It’s a dilemma. The therapist in me is already up and running by the way I am listening with my whole head and heart. But then it often doesn’t feel good to me to have gone into “work mode” with a friend.

And even as I write this, I notice I am putting quotes around “work mode”, trying to separate that part of me out. Because we all need to check our work selves at the door, right? But when our work is bound up with being human, being present, being relational, being emotional, it is pretty hard to separate that out. Even when we sometimes desperately want to, need to.  

Speaking of it not feeling good going into work mode, it can be hard to be an EFT therapist and be in a relationship. I want to be clear that EFT has helped my own 25-year marriage immensely. That being said, I don’t want to be my husband’s therapist. And I can’t be my own therapist. So there’s that. And there are also times when it is hard to be swimming in attachment with my couples all day long, immersing myself in deep emotion for hours on end, and to then come home and have a how-was-your-day fly-by or a real “miss” with my husband. Like everyone, it is hard in the times when we find ourselves stuck in our negative cycle. Or in the times of knowing that something is blocking me from reaching for my partner, and despite that recognition, still finding it difficult to reach. Damn, I can be so good at this in my office and then be so humanly flawed in my own kitchen!

Finally, it can be hard to be an EFT therapist with all that is going on in the world. I am taking a big risk here with what I am about to say, and I am nervous. I actually wrote this a few weeks ago and then sat on it. But here goes… because of our training to be curious, because of our desire to search for and understand the pain that is underneath people’s reactive behavior/what we might see, I often find myself in a room of people who have strong opinions about something and I feel stuck because I can feel into both sides. For instance, in the recent Kavanaugh hearings, I was moved to tears by Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. I absolutely believed her. I believed her for her own story and experience. I also believed her and was moved by her because I know and knew girls with similar stories. And because I was that girl too.   

And yet, I was also open to and trying to understand Brett Kavanaugh’s pain. A different kind of pain for sure, but pain nevertheless. And because I could feel that too, I felt stuck. In a room of people who were outraged, I felt shame for my lack of it. I felt alone. And I was quiet. Why was I not outraged too? I tried to be curious about my reaction. And it took me a few days until I realized… that my training as an EFT therapist, my training to try to be curious, to try to feel the pain underneath behavior—even confusing behavior, even bad behavior—stranded me, alone, in-between two different people’s pain, and in-between two different communities of outrage.

Sometimes, it is hard to be an EFT Therapist.

34 thoughts on “Sometimes, it’s hard to be an EFT Therapist

  1. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. Thanks for the tenderness. I wrote an article about coping with the hour before the first couple shows up. Can I do this? Maybe I can distract myself by doing whatever. Why do I love the work so much and want to avoid it at the same time? Isn’t it amazing that something we cherish asks so much of us?

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    1. Thank you so much, Susan. I so resonate with what you wrote — the love and the avoidance; the feeling in the pit of my stomach sometimes when I am walking into session–oh god, I know what I am walking into–and at the same time the pull (and the hope) that somehow if I can anchor myself, anchor to the model, anchor to the couple; if I can hold onto what I know about humans and couples and trauma even while a flood of emotion is coming at me, that I may be able to help a someone/a couple in a profound way. 🙂

      Thank you for commenting.

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  2. Your article was so articulate and beautifully written. How many times I have experienced this social phenomenon and felt so alone; the downside of being empathic and curious. Thank you so much for putting tender words to our experience.

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  3. Thank you for this beautiful post. Just yesterday I was at a family birthday celebration for my 98 year old aunt. I was talking to the husband of one of my first cousins. When he asked what I’ve been up to, I decided to talk about my work with couples and the certification process I’m in the midst of and how much I’m learning as part of this process. All the while, I’m silently thinking “He probably has no interest in this.” Then he asks what approach it is and I said Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples. He said “Oh, I’m reading Hold Me Tight…” I was floored and delighted. It turns out he and his wife have started working with an EFT therapist who recommended the book which he has found very helpful. He even said, “I realize I need to work on this relationship rather than think there’s another better one out there.” We proceeded to have a deep, meaningful conversation about relationships which I never expected would happen. What a gift to be able to talk with this lovely man, who I imagine is the withdrawer, in such a vulnerable way. Thank you, Sue and our amazing community.

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    1. Laura, thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your experience! I can absolutely relate… it can be so buoying to be able to connect with people and hear how their relationships have been impacted by EFT. Glad to hear you are in the midst of the certification process! 🙂 Good for you!

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  4. Hey Karyn,

    I totally get your post, all aspects of it could be said to be mine too!

    Yes, it’s very hard for all the reasons you mentioned…and more.

    Thank you for sharing your struggle and for putting it out in such a lovely, sincere and vulnerable way.

    Warm EFT hugs,

    Evelyn

    http://www.lighthousecoaching.ae Couples counseling (Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy) Co-active life coach (The Coaches Training Institute) +971 55 667 43 35

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    Liked by 1 person

  5. Karyn,

    All so well said. You are such a loving, compassionate human being. It makes you a magnificent therapist, supervisor and friend. EFT has been your coach ( like an athlete’s coach) as you were meant to be an elite human being in seeing other human beings humanness in such a magnificent way. That was one of the gifts you were given and have practiced and developed and perfected. I so admire and am in awe of that part ( and many other parts too😊) of you.

    Can’t wait to go walking – I’m in Iowa now but perhaps next weekend— and talk more about the “work mode.” Such an interesting way of looking at it. When We see things that are invisible to others, almost as if the thing we see is behind a wall to another, is at our “job “to show them what is there? Especially when they are people that we love and care about. When it’s people that we love and care about and are in deep relationship, it leaves us more responsible for preventing rupture or for creating repair. But that “job” in a relationship is not the prize job. It ends up being the burden of being an amazing eft therapist, which you are. (Rereading this and it’s exactly what you said in your article). Who knew when we signed up for the externship, that this was a side effect!!!

    When we see things like the Kavanaugh side, others can’t do that quadruple flip ( pick your elite athlete move) and without it they can’t join you. Hence, there you are alone sitting with the pain of both sides and no one to join you in that perspective.

    So grateful as thanksgiving approaches to have you, such an amazing eft “athlete “ as my friend. Can’t wait to continue this conversation.

    Happy thanksgiving, Much love, big hugs, Linda

    Linda b Weber, LCSW 609-915-5803 Lindabweber@gmail.com 601 Ewing street suite c-12 Princeton, NJ 08540 Sent from my iPhone

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    1. Wow, Linda, thank you so much for your very generous words and for just being you! Yes, who knew what we were walking into when we signed up for the Externship — all the rewards and all the side effects too! 🙂 So grateful that one of the rewards was our friendship and colleagueship (I thought colleagueality was a word, but apparently not!). Can’t wait to walk and continue the conversation–always!
      Happy Thanksgiving! Much love, Karyn

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  6. Love this very honest and vulnerable reflection, Karyn…it is indeed hard to be an EFT therapist sometimes, for the very reasons you articulated. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, right? It’s wonderful to have a map, but then we feel obliged to make use of it all the time and knowing the paths we need to travel don’t always make them easy to traverse. We are all human after all…Thanks for the post – definitely validating!

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  7. Wow! This is so refreshing to read! You are such a great writer! And, of course, I can totally relate. Yes, it’s hard for ALL of the reasons you mentioned. We cannot compartmentalize ourselves or, at least, I don’t want to…so then we experience exactly what you described.

    Amanda Green

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Karyn,
    You put into words the feeling of what being EFT/Couple Therapist means in the real world and the challenges that we face. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your words. I love when your blog shows up in my inbox. Big EFT Hugs to you!
    Hope to see you soon!
    Renee Segal

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh what an amazing post Karyn, Your vulnerable words touched me deeply! Everything you mentioned resonates with me, particularly regarding your own marriage and social occasions. I too, often find myself describing the cycle (and probably going on too long about it!) at social events when asked about it. We who believe in the model ARE passionate about it. There’s a part of me that feels if I can get the message across, the cycle is the enemy, it might help someone get curious or gain a different perspective that might save a relationship! Plus the times I’ve recommended ‘Hold Me Tight’…
    Thank you so much! xx

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  10. thank-you for spelling out parts of being an EFT therapist that are hard. i have experienced many of the scenarios that you have described (including experiencing violation as a young boy). My perspective and training has gearee me to curiously imagine the pain of each of the parties. sometimes i am taken aback by this attitude as it seems so unsympathetic to the person who has been violated. i have learned that everyone’s pain has created brain coping that can only be reached and changed by curious sympathy, gracious care and loving connection.

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    1. Thank you so much for reaching out, Johan. And thanks so much for being vulnerable in your comment. I hear you in all that you said, and I have so much that I’d like to say but perhaps I will instead say, I have my hands together in front of my heart and am bowing to you. Thanks for sharing.

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