Couples and Families

Many evidenced based treatments, including those provided at Tampa Bay DBT, are transactional models.  This indicates that there is an interaction that occurs between individuals and their loved ones over time.  This transaction often escalates and the very behaviors we are trying to resolve are reinforced.  This leads to families all too often feeling “stuck”, as if the same conversations occur with no resolution.

Do you find yourself saying “here we go again” when certain topics or issues arise? Couples or family therapy may be the answer you are looking for.  Couples and family therapy often focuses on building a safe and supportive place for partners and family members to share themselves and feelings, build connection, and resolve differences.

Families often identify being stuck in the same cycle of “here we go again” with the same issues or conflicts coming between members. I highlight this cycle for the family so that each person gains an understanding of how the family continues to interact in ways that keep them “stuck” and what skills are necessary for growth and healing to occur.

As a member of the Tampa Bay DBT team, Allie works closely with the individual therapists.  This team approach allows us to provide more comprehensive and effective treatment to the entire family system.

What is EFT?

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a short-term treatment approach whose goal is the reconnection between partners. EFT, developed by Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg, is based on attachment research that shows human beings are born to connect with others. We are put on this earth to connect with those that we love, and often our histories and experiences can get in the way of our connections.

EFT focuses on each partner, what they are feeling and experiencing, and how this affects the other partner. Most couples find themselves in conflicts regarding such issues like jealousy, money, power, or sex. These issues often have underlying themes of a need to connect with each other. Questions such as “Do I matter? Do you really love me? Are you really there for me when I need you?” are at the bottom of these conflicts and issues within a couple relationship.

EFT creates a holding space for each partner’s emotions and needs in a relationship. Each partner learns how to turn towards their loved one with an openness and space to hear and understand the needs of each other. Couples learn how to break out of their rigid cycles that often dominate each issue in their relationship. This brings couples back to the love, connection, and support that they each want and need.

Research on the success of EFT

EFT appears to move couples from distress to recovery for 70 to 75% of the cases, and creates improvements in 90% of the couples coming in for therapy. EFT has been used with many different types of couples in private practice, university training centers and hospital clinics. These distressed couples include partners suffering from disorders such as depression, post-traumatic stress and chronic illness.

To view further references, recent articles describing EFT therapy and books on EFT, please refer to the EFT website:

What if I am seeking family therapy, not couples therapy?

EFT has also been shown to be effective with family members and their relationships. Family members may have arguments surrounding issues such as chores, school, family “rules”, parenting, and life-cycle transitions of adolescents reaching for more independence. These issues, like those for couples, also appear to have core origins of needing safety, security, and understanding from all members involved. Family members often find themselves stuck in patterns of defending, justifying, or explaining their positions rather than understanding how each member is being affected.

We view the building of “a safe haven” in your family as our primary task, and we will try to focus on your primary needs – to feel close, secure and responded to –which probably underlie most of the conflict in the couple or family. 

Once this safe haven and feelings of connection are reestablished, you will be better able to manage conflict and the painful or difficult feelings that will inevitably arise from time to time in a close relationship. Furthermore, without so much defensiveness, each of you will be able to send clearer messages and will be better able to hear the other’s perspective. You will be better able to collaborate, problem-solve and compromise.