Couples Impacted by Trauma, Part 3 of 3

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Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples Improves Trauma Symptoms

In the previous article, we found that Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can significantly improve the relationships of couples who have been impacted by trauma. This article will explore how EFT for couples can also lead to significant improvement in the individual symptoms of trauma survivors.

Several research studies support this. Veterans who were impacted by combat trauma reported that EFT for couples reduced their depressive symptoms and psychological stress related to trauma.[i] Additionally, fifty percent of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse reported that EFT for couples led to a significant decrease in their trauma symptoms.[ii]

What leads to these improvements? It has to do with the protective impact relationships have in the face of trauma. Relationships affect the extent to which an individual experiences distress after a traumatic event. The closer and stronger a trauma survivor’s relationships, the less likely they will develop chronic symptoms of PTSD. As a trauma survivor improves their relationship through couples counseling, they also find an ally in their individual healing process. Spouses and partners learn to provide safety, connection, and support in a number of specific ways.

  • When a trauma survivor experiences nightmares, flashbacks or other re-experiencing symptoms, they can go to their trusted partner for empathy and care.
  • Instead of engaging in unhealthy coping skills such as drinking, cutting, or binge eating, a trauma survivor can find support from their partner.
  • When a trauma survivor struggles to deal with difficult emotions such as grief, anger, and shame, a partner can become someone who helps them process these difficult emotions.

Partners learn how to be effective allies in the context of couples counseling. 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.

If trauma is impacting your marriage, EFT for couples can help. Processing your emotions and building new connections in the context of counseling can bring healing to your trauma and transformation to your relationship.

[i] 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.

[ii] Dalton, E. J., Greenman, P.S., Classen. C.C., Johnson, S. M. (2013). Nurturing connections in the aftermath of childhood trauma: A randomized controlled trial of emotionally focused couple therapy for female survivors of childhood abuse. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice. 2(3), 209-221.