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Relationship counseling works if there is a theory behind it. Many relationship counselors say they are eclectic. They do what works. But science has examined relationships for a long time. We know what works. Attachment to our partner works. Attachment makes us happy. Attachment makes our children secure. Attachment means optimal sex. Believe it or not, securely attached people make more money! Relational counseling works if it’s grounded in the most scientifically-researched theory about romantic relationships called Attachment Theory. At Awakenings, all our therapists are highly trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy which is a technique of attachment theory.
Questions to ask a future therapist:
The attachment research literature is clear that there are three behavioral systems in romantic partnerships—emotional attachment, caretaking, and sexuality (Hazen & Shaver, 1987). In emotional attachment, we seek closeness and empathy; we want our partner to want to know us, to “get” us. The caretaking cycle is about helping and commitment—being with a person you can count on, who has your back, and who comes looking for you because they know you are lost. And especially—the sexual cycle, (relational sex therapy is available at Awakenings)—which stabilizes and adds to our overall relational satisfaction, contributing to “love, vitality, and excitement” (Sprecher & Cate, 2004). It’s the ordinary adventure that enlivens a committed partnership.
Relationship counseling works by helping partners understand that there are cycles of behavior. Couples think they are miscommunicating over everything. They have fights that go unresolved. Buy in a relationship there are patterns that you will learn about in relationship counseling. In each emotional or sexual cycle, there is a pursue-withdraw pattern.
One person pursues closeness, time together, sharing, or sex. The more they pursue, ironically the further their partner seems to withdraw. Pursuers often sense a disconnection and push harder, maybe getting angry and critical. Withdrawers often fear that they are failing, and back away to keep things calmer. This infuriates their pursuing partner. Sometimes the pattern crisscrosses in the emotional and sexual cycle. Relationship counselors help you see your part in this negative cycle. Then a good relationship counselor will help you learn what you can do. You’ll learn your better move. You’ll see how vulnerable, direct communication heals the cycle. Relationship counseling will help you and your partner feel safe, and secure with each other.
Does relationship counseling actually work?
YES! A resounding yes! We’ve done research on using the relational counseling technique of EFT. The research finds that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and approximately 90% show significant improvements.
Within 16 weeks most couples find they have radically reduced fighting and are learning to be more vulnerable which draws their partner closer. Sex stops being part of a power struggle. Just think about it – from the beginning of summer through your kids going back to summer – you could have a different relationship.