Karen Shore, LACEFT Member and EFT Supervisor, developed these forms to use with her couples. The forms are organized by colors but you could print these on any color paper you wish. Karen tells the story of how the different colors have been important for her couples. “I had chosen the colors at random, but after working with the pink and green sheet a couple of times, one man said ‘Oh, I get it. Pink is for Pain, and Green is for Growth!’ Since then, I have mentioned this to each of my couples after they have worked with both sheets a couple of times, and all find this helpful. I am finding this a simple way to begin to help couples integrate what leads to escalation, and what leads to de-escalation. Karen shares these as a resource to EFT therapists looking for resources to supplement therapy. She suggest the following limitation in using these forms: “Of course, none of these sheets replaces the emotional processing and attunement and other work we have been trained to do. Reliance on these alone would likely make the work an intellectual experience which would likely produce little change. These sheets are simply an aid, especially for couples who have difficulty de-escalating and for those who don’t, for whatever reason, read Hold Me Tight. I recommend to people that they read the sheets for 60 seconds/day and then spend 60 seconds/day, when things are calm, talking with each other about what they learned from the sheets, or rehearsing what they would like to say to each other the next time a cycle starts.”
This is the first hand-out I give to couples during the first few sessions as we begin our work. This is entitled “The Negative Cycle – Your Common Enemy – The Problem You Can Both Work on Together:” This is The Infinity Sign annotated. I refer to this simply as the “Gold Sheet” because I print it on Goldenrod paper. The Gold Sheet introduces the concepts of the negative cycle, the mutual impact on the other, longings and unmet needs, primary emotions, secondary emotions, and action tendencies, as well as how our mammalian brains and bodies react to the other’s negative behaviors when we perceive that the safety or security of the bond, or the safety and security of the self, is threatened.
This is the Pink Sheet, printed on pink paper, and titled “Our Negative Cycle.” This document has two copies of the same thing, so cut this in half. The Pink Sheet represents a way couples can start to explore their negative cycle, identifying and describing their feelings and behaviors, and starting to own their behavior and its impact on their partner. This page is adapted from pages 95 and 96 of Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. I hand this out to couples having difficulty describing primary emotion, identifying their behaviors, and/or seeing how they are impacting each other.
This is the Green Sheet, “Building a Safe and Secure Relationship.” This sheet also has two copies of the same thing, so cut this one in half also. This sheet was developed because of the number of couples I’ve worked with who seemed to have no model for, no concept of, cooperative interaction. For these couples, what most of us would call “cooperation” felt like submission, so the fear of cooperating, of forming a team to fight the cycle, was simply alien, foreign, and frightening. Some couples seem to have little or no idea how to work together, how to make each other safe, how to work as a team instead of as opponents. The Green Sheet starts the same way as the Pink Sheet, but instead of the behaviors that seem to escalate a partner, there is a list of possible behaviors – things to say when a cycle starts – that have the potential for de-escalation, for reassurance and re-regulation. I tell the couples that these are not really statements to memorize, but rather attitudes to adopt. When using this sheet, sometimes I ask each partner to look down the list of possible things to say and talk about which statements feel comfortable to them, which ones they could see themselves saying at times of stress. Sometimes I ask each partner to read each of the choices to the other, and have both see what it feels like to speak it or receive the message, asking them to focus in on whether hearing or saying the statement leads them to feel more tense and anxious or more relaxed and safe. Sometimes I will ask the partners to take turns reading each choice in order, so that they are sharing the task. There are many ways to use the Green Sheet. The Green Sheet helps couples imagine what it would be like to work together, to offer one’s partner safety, to reassure and calm one’s partner.
The Blank Infinity Sign (i.e., there are spaces, or blanks, where people can write in their behaviors, feelings and thoughts, and their needs/longings) is a replica of what I have written in permanent marker on an 18″ X 29″ White Board that I use in session, sometimes along with the Pink Sheet, to help couples visually see their cycle. I place the White Board on a stool in front of them and give each an erasable dry marker, asking them to write in their protective behaviors, needs, longings, fears, feelings, etc. Having them write these in themselves seems to help them clarify and declare their needs while we are in Stage One, along with articulating and owning their feelings, thoughts and behaviors. After they have filled in the blank spaces (we usually do some emotional processing while doing this so as not to have it simply be an intellectual exercise), I talk them through the repeating cycle, motioning through their cycle with my hand over and over to help them integrate the mutual impact, the longings and needs that aren’t getting met, etc. I also suggest that they use their cell phones to take a photo of what they have written on the White Board so they can print it out at home and talk about it. Several people have mentioned how helpful it is to use the White Board in session because they can now visualize what happens. One man said that before this, the idea of the cycle seemed very abstract, and now he could really see it, visualize it, and it became more concrete for him. The Salmon Sheet can be given to couples to take home and copy so that they can use a copy any time they have gotten into a cycle.
Hold Me Tight –Sue Johnson
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy for Dummies — Brent Bradley and James Furrow
Love Sense — Sue Johnson
Created for Connection –Sue Johnson