Therapist Warmth: Creating Change in Couple Therapy – what we learned from Talk Time

Why you need warmth postI loved discussing with and interviewing Dr. Lori Schade when she came on Talk Time to share her dissertation, which recently won the prestigious AAMFT Research Award. What she discovered is applicable to every therapeutic model.

 Her Research Path Started in a Coding Lab

Dr. Lori Schade wanted a dissertation that would be meaningful for clinicians and help delineate the mechanisms of change in therapy, so working out of the coding lab at Brigham Young University, Schade
conducted process research with the support of Jonathan Sandberg and Jim Harper.

Her research is particularly exciting because it’s unusual to have access to a coding lab with externally trained coders. These labs are expensive to run, and they make the data particularly solid, unbiased, and useful.

Choosing the Warmth Variable

Schade, a Certified Emotionally Focused Therapist and Supervisor, picked WARMTH variables because they were in line with EFT theory and practice. Warmth is a basic element of alliance. We also feel it easily in those softening and bonding moments of therapy.

Using the Iowa Family Interaction Rating Scale, instructed external coders measured the three identified components of expressed warmth: nonverbal warmth, content warmth and content support warmth.

Three Components of Warmth

Warmth has three distinguishable, inter-related constructs that really matter. Our nonverbal warmth comes across to our clients as we smile, gesture affectionately, and incorporate eye contact and body movement to convey attunement. Content area warmth includes verbal expressions of affirmation, empathy, and liking. Our supportive warmth can be measured in the combination of congruent body language and our explicit praise, encouragement and show of concern.

Warmth is Independent from Listener Responsiveness

But all this warmth is not about good listening. It’s important to remember, warmth variables are independent from attentive and reflective listening. A good reflection, for example, is not the same a validation or conveying our felt sense to our clients.

Therapists Can Increase Husband’s Warmth Dramatically

Schade’s data, done with heterosexual, married couples, showed that for every unit of increase in therapist’s warmth the husband’s warmth by 1.19 units. That’s a  magnification. This means a therapist’s warmth to a husband accounted for almost of the husband’s warmth to his wife. Isn’t that  incredible? And the whole trajectory of warmth was pliable. It could shift and increase over time longitudinally and clients improved as therapist warmth increased.

Learn how to Use Warmth in Your Therapy

This incredible data is so encouraging. Warmth is a safety cue. That’s why, as a follow up to a report of Dr. Schade’s research we developed a 3-hour training on how to access and develop your capacity for
using warmth. The training includes key phrases and body language that can help you feel and utilize increased warmth in therapy.

Anyone from any model can begin to use warmth with their distressed couples. Whether you’re learning a new model of couple therapy, or are already an experienced therapist, warmth is an asset your therapy can benefit from.

In our training, Dr. Schade and I taught how to access and expand feeling safe to convey warmth and consciously utilize this important affect. You’ll learn how to handle those important moments, how to avoid getting caught in the empathy trap, the number one mistakes therapists make in those moments of intensity, and help you identify how to use the 3 constructs of warmth to key into that incredible gain.

Grab the home study of this training here. I’m sure you’ll love it. Also check out this online, shame training. The Shame Training is evidenced based and teaches you all about how to work with shame using EFT in session- – so useful.