Courage Needed

Courage Needed

By Naomi B. Rather, LCMHC

I recently attended a master EFT training, and was deeply moved on several levels throughout the weekend. The presenter, Jim Thomas, LMFT revealed some of his own struggles, and his vulnerability allowed those of us in the audience to bring forth our own insecurities as therapists. Because we all share a desire to do right by the couples who seek our help, and when the treatment stalls or seems to move slowly, we can be quick to blame ourselves. It takes courage to watch our tapes and identify the places where different clinical decisions might have yielded better results. But EFT trained clinicians do this because we believe in the power of the model. We want to take our couples to the Promised Land, where they can reach for and receive the support and connection that every human being needs, from the person who means everything to them.

Jim’s teaching style included showing multiple videos of his work. I was immediately struck by his limitless compassion, and his advanced level of skill with the model. But what knocked me over was the courage that his couples showed, both in sessions and in their generous willingness to allow other therapists to learn from their experiences in therapy. We watched as couples successfully found their way back to each other through topics as thorny as infidelity, childhood trauma, and explosive rage. From newlyweds to couples with more than 30 years together, every person somehow found the courage to participate in the therapy. We watched as they confronted painful or embarrassing or chronic issues, sometimes alongside the very person who had most hurt them or let them down. One thing was clear in all of the sessions: couples therapy is not for the faint of heart! But it is for those who know there is something better on the other side of loneliness and fear, and are willing to take risks to get there.

I was reminded of an individual client I worked with years ago, whose marriage was on the brink of divorce. We identified issues from her family of origin that were contributing to the marital problems, but she was not willing to address them to save her marriage. She told me it was easier for her to get divorced than to unpack those painful memories. I remember feeling disappointed at the time, because I believed her unresolved issues and the behaviors that resulted would simply be carried into any other relationships she developed. But I also accepted that for her, it simply felt too risky to address them.

Being vulnerable is such a risky and incredibly courageous choice. I am amazed by my couples’ willingness to go to these places with me, and inspired by what takes place when they go there.