Couples Impacted by Trauma, Part 1 of 3

Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples Impacted by Trauma

Approximately 70% of people experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. Sometimes trauma occurs as a one-time event, such as in the case of a serious car accident or a rape. It can also be experienced over long periods of time, such as in the case of repeated childhood sexual abuse or witnessing violence in the context of war.

Many individuals who experience some form of trauma may re-experience the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares. They often avoid reminders of the trauma, and experience many difficult thoughts and emotions related to the trauma. Many are also constantly on guard and alert for possible danger.

The impact of trauma is not limited to the individual who experienced it. In fact, some trauma survivors may avoid intimacy and retreat from important relationships. This can lead spouses and partners feeling cut off, rejected, and helpless.

Many individuals who have experienced trauma need counseling to work through the impact of the trauma on their personal life and intimate relationships. Although many individuals assume the most appropriate way to address their pain and symptoms of trauma is through one on one counseling, family involvement should be an integral part of the counseling process.

One particularly effective way to involve a spouse, or partner, is through emotionally focused therapy (EFT) for couples. Numerous studies show that EFT is an effective treatment for couples impacted by trauma.[i],[ii] In the context of trauma, EFT helps couples in two main ways. First, EFT improves the relationships of couples impacted by trauma. Second, EFT leads to improvement of trauma symptoms in individual trauma survivors. When trauma survivors go to individual therapy, their family members often feel cut out and excluded. They don’t know how to help. But in the context of EFT for couples, partners are not only included, but considered an integral part of the healing process.

The next two blog posts will explore these benefits of EFT in detail. Stay tuned to learn how your relationship might benefit from EFT.

[i] MacIntosh, H. B. & Johnson, S. (2008). Emotionally focused therapy for couples and childhood sexual abuse survivors. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(3), 298-315.

[ii] Weissman, N., Batten, S. V., Rheem, K. D., Wiebe, S. A., Pasillas, R. M., Potts, W., Barone, M., Brown, C. H., & Dixon, L. B. (2017). The effectiveness of emotionally focused couples therapy with veterans with PTSD: A pilot study. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 0(0), 1-17.