Sue Johnson and Evolution of Psychotherapy

Sue Johnson with John and Julie Gottman. Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, 12/2013


It was great fun to be at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference and get to hang out with Sue for a day while she did her thing (the same thing I love to do) – share Emotionally Focused Therapy with everyone in ear shot. And boy, there were a LOT of people within ear shot.6,000 therapists were at the conference from all over the world.

One of the things I liked really well was being front and center at this panel discussion that featured Sue along with John and Julie Gottman. After all, it was John Gottman that first pointed me in the direction of Sue Johnson. I was heavily involved in Gottman training (becoming a ‘Scientifically Based Marital Therpist’) and he talked in 1994 about her like he does now – lauding her research and suggesting people read her books. I did. And boy am I glad.

Here’s 5 key points Sue spoke about as part of this panel discussion on healing affairs that are key take-aways.

1. We need emotional closeness with our life partner, and we need to understand how our brain codes threat and heals from rejection.

2. Sex is a bonding event.

3. Society tries to separate sex from bonding but that’s not how we’re wired.

4. After the couple has stabilized, the betrayed partner needs to experience their partner attuning and empathizing with their pain. “I need to know my hurt impacts you, that you can feel my pain.”

5. We need new bonding events, after sharing our attachment fears and needs to help us heal from infidelity.

FYI: John Gottman also supported connection as the primary goal for couple’s treatment and repair.