You know that when you're working with couples as an EFT therapist, you'll determine partner positions from the couple seated in front of you. The pursuer and the withdrawer. Over the course of your therapeutic relationship you'll understand more about each person as you facilitate their change, but your goal will always be to support both partners to achieve a safe state of emotional balance and love, between one another and within their own experience.
Today, I'm taking a moment to give you some tips on working with the withdrawers in distressed relationships.
First, it's important to remember, the withdrawer struggles to tolerate discussion of sensitive topics and is often uncomfortable with emotional expression and experience. You will observe the withdrawer changing the subject, going to story telling, and trying to find solutions during the session to avoid emotional experiencing. This is largely unconscious on their part.
In order to support the withdrawer to engage with emotion, in therapy and to re-engage in their relationship, I recommend that you R.A.V.E RAVE is a little acronym that will help you create safety for the more withdrawn partner so he/she can step into the risk of accessing and sharing emotion.
Here's what the acronym stands for:
- Reflect – Reflect and order the described experience. Reflect the cycle. Share the cognitive load by making sense of what is being shared through the attachment frame.
- Accept – Communicate acceptance. Through your emotional state of curiosity, delight, openness and even playfulness you can communicate acceptance. Smile. Maintain the feeling of love, acceptance, and non-judgment with both your words and body language.
- Validate – Express explicitly that you understand what he or she is saying and that you value and understand it. This is especially good as they struggle to access, enact and when you tie a bow (I'm referencing the EFT Tango moves)
- Explore – After you have ordered the client's experience and he/she feels accepted and validate you can then use emotional processing interventions such as the reflection of feelings, empathic conjecture and evocative responding,
It's good for us to consciously remember that EFT is a process-oriented therapy and that, when working with withdrawers we need to meet them first where they are. Using RAVE will help you do that. The idea is to start more cognitively and gently and slowing go from being with them in their automatic, triggered way of being to inviting them into new sharing and experiencing so they can integrate more of who they are and grow into more security.
Enjoy RAVE-ing with your withdrawers. I think you'll notice feeling more attuned with them as you do.