Working with Couples

By David Lake

How do you help a couple to use EFT or SET together? Well, it’s like teaching them to have sex “properly”. First, they must develop trust and faith in you. Then there are the detailed instructions. Last, a little demonstration. Then they might abandon the teaching while keeping the essentials and doing it their own way! Most of the good work occurs in private and I often wonder what is going on.

In couple therapy I like to have a teaching session to demonstrate EFT / SET on something “light” (e.g. minor fears, aches and pains) as a prelude to entering the dark regions of the disturbance in the Force. (Sometimes I see each partner separately for assessment and teaching). This is fun, and serves to engage the partner who often did not want initially to come to therapy. Soon you have the pre-requisites for a solid session of treatment: a committed couple who have goodwill, a basic understanding of their problems and knowledge of EFT / SET (with reassuring feedback for them on the relaxation and desensitising aspects). A couple without this goodwill is in for a bumpy ride, with or without EFT / SET.

It is vital that the relational aspects of therapy, or getting along with people, come first when teaching EFT / SET, otherwise it is just a technique. Techniques can be like a “trick”, unless therapists integrate EFT / SET naturalistically into their style of couple therapy. The key feature of EFT / SET is that it must be used by the couple, or, despite good intentions, they might only use it to get relief of one problem-then forget all about it.

When I have very good rapport, either partner can do intense work. I basically want the couple to tap for an hour on everything relevant! The following are some examples of how I would engage such a couple strategically:

Both are tapping on what is stated or thought regardless of the person in focus. This can be virtually continual if necessary (with occasional repeat “setups”) Either can tap for the hurt and negative feelings that rise up with the situation. One partner can tap on the other! (I feed the words…they create the words). Partners can tap on each other simultaneously.

If using SET, you can simply tap whilst focusing on any of the following. If using EFT, begin with: I accept myself deeply and completely although:

General statements (SETUP):

You’re my friend (but not at present)…
I love you (but I don’t like you)…
You hurt me (and you shouldn’t)…

Confessions (BOTH TAPPING)

I still love you in spite of what I did / you did / we did

Ventilations (BOTH TAPPING)

I can’t stand it when…
You hurt me when…

Specific Focus on a Family of Origin issue

You’re treating me just like…

Exaggerating the Negative (WITH GOOD RAPPORT)

You’re the worst partner
Your problems are bigger than mine

Polarities and paradoxes (SPOKEN TOGETHER)

I love you / I hate you
It’s your fault /my fault / our fault
I blame you / I don’t blame you
You hurt me / I hurt you / we hurt each other
You’re not perfect / I am perfect / But I’m not perfect

Effects can be dramatic, with a lot less bickering about right and wrong. There is also a feeling for each of being heard and understood, if the partner can speak about the mutual problem while both are tapping-with far less “explaining” by me. Although both do experience the problem from opposite sides, both feel settled by the EFT / SET experience rather than struggling for justification, or a verdict from the therapist. The habitual game/theme/struggle of the couple can change. The healing effect of using polarities with couples in conflict is wonderfully intense; I’m not sure exactly why, but using the negatives overtly is highly effective in practice.

I regard the sight of a couple (who were in conflict), tapping carefully on each other’s faces while they reconnect, as very moving.

So far in my practice, “complete” couple therapy like this is relatively rare, because I still see more individuals than couples. Also, the assessment and training take some 2-3 sessions, and many couples don’t commit to the time overall-but I am not changing the basic framework, because there is no quick fix for such complex problems.

As self-help this is empowering for hurt, angry people; it’s what EFT / SET were made for in my opinion.