213: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and Attachment with Dr. James Hawkins

Welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch! This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

In this episode, we’re talking Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and attachment with Dr. James Hawkins. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots, and watch it on YouTube – follow and leave a 5-star review.

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The Couples Therapist Couch 213: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and Attachment with Dr. James Hawkins

Learn more about the Couples Therapy 101 course: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/

Learn more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new

In this episode, Shane talks with Dr. James Hawkins about Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and attachment. James is a Licensed Counsellor, and an ICEEFT-certified trainer, supervisor, and therapist. Hear how success and vulnerability are tied together, how to bring the most important things to the forefront, how love and protection fit together, why validation is so key, and how often he sees a typical client.

This episode covers everything from EFT to validation. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What is success in vulnerability?
  • How do you slow things down for your clients?
  • What's an example of validation?
  • How should you think about pain?
  • What are secondary emotions?
  • How does James approach emotions with family members?
  • What did he learn from Dr. Sue Johnson?
  • How often should you do EFT sessions?

To learn more about James, visit DocHawkLPC.com

Check out James’s podcast, The Leading Edge in Emotionally Focused Therapy

You can also listen to James on Episode 132 of The Couples Therapist Couch.

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below: 



 Show Notes


What is The Couples Therapist Couch?

This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Many of the episodes are interviews with leaders in the field of Relationships. The show is meant to help Therapists and Coaches learn how to help people to deepen their connection, but in the process it explores what is most needed for each of us to love, heal, and grow. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

Learn more about the Couples Therapy 101 course: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Dr. James Hawkins 0:00
Vulnerability is the core. If couples learn and relationships learn how to get soothing in their vulnerability, it changes the whole dynamic of the relationship.

Intro VO 0:13
Welcome to The Couples Therapist Couch, the podcast for couples therapists, marriage counselors, and relationship coaches to explore the practice of couples therapy, and now your host, Shane Birkel.

Shane Birkel 0:30
Everyone welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. This is Shane Birkel. And this is the podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. If you enjoy the show, you should definitely go on over to the Couples Therapist Couch Facebook group and join 6,000 other therapists who just like to talk about couples therapy. So go on over to Couples Therapist Couch, just type that in the search in Facebook and you can find the group there. Today I'm speaking with Dr. James Hawkins. He's an emotionally focused trainer and supervisor one of the best Emotionally Focused therapists that I know one of the best couples therapists that I know. And we've had conversations on the podcast before I believe the last time was episode number 132. But he's one of the greatest teachers of couples therapy and I'm going to keep keep trying to get him to come back on the show whenever I can. And this conversation that we had today was was no different than usual. So without further introduction, here is the episode with Dr. James Hawkins. Everybody welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. This is Shane Birkel. And today I'm speaking with Dr. James Hawkins, Emotionally Focused trainer, supervisor, and therapist, co-host of the podcast The Leading Edge in Emotionally Focused Therapy, and part of the online training program Success & Vulnerability. Hey, James, welcome to the show.

Dr. James Hawkins 1:55
It's good to be back. Shane. It's good to be back.

Shane Birkel 1:58
yeah, it's so good to see you. You've been on a couple of times you and I were like man, I feel like it's been a long time since I've seen you. I mean, it feels like a short time. But it's actually been a couple of years traveling on it. Yeah. It's really good to see you. So obviously, we're going to talk I'm going to pick your brain about Emotionally Focused Therapy, because you're one of the people I really look up to in that world. But why don't you start by telling everyone a little bit more about yourself?

Dr. James Hawkins 2:27
Man, yeah. So that's been a great journey. And I guess the first thing on my mind with that is, and I think you Shane, like a real just note, you released the episode, where you re released your episode with Sue Johnson. And so Sue's passing has been something that's been just heavy in my heart and mind, you know, recently. But so sorry. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. You know, yeah. And so with that, though, as you know, you kind of you know, you mourn her loss. But then you also begin to the thing about Sue, that I appreciate is her passion for life. And innovation and helping people was so infectious shame. You could not be around Sue without the picking up. This woman is not just a researcher, she is really passionate about helping people live, healthy, thriving, loving lives. And so there's been a part in her passing, it's made me go back and reevaluate myself really, and say, okay, James, you know, what have you been doing? What are you doing for humanity? What are you doing for outside of yourself to make the world a better place? Because you've been here? How are you refining and Sue were she was such an Intune human being. She was also a very focused keen clinician, for Su Su was always showing me the proof. Show me what that what you're saying work show me that where the data is. And so it's just made me kind of in a good way, like go back look at myself. So where James is right now I mean, Coursers my family life, you know, me and my wife Nicola, and she's a therapist now and she's doing great and she's doing good work herself. We actually got to do a co therapy session together with a family that was really cool. Oh, that's cool. Yeah, Nicola, I think she's going to specialize in IE in Emotionally Focused Therapy with family so that'd be kind of cool. Oh, that's great. You know, we we've got our own family and launching kids out and learning how to be parents with them as with an adult child in the home and all those things and but also this product that you thank you for announced even me working with success and vulnerability. I can't remember if I was working with them. Last time I talked to you Shane, but so it's just me George Fowler, Ryan, Reyna Angela impove, Chad emhoff. And we're working together just saying like how do we help provide online training to therapists, particularly in Emotionally Focused couples therapy. Just the reason why we named it success and vulnerability we'll probably get into this topic today it we really aren't Simply and this is also from Sue's work is that our clients need us to join them and help them succeed in the place where it matters most for them, and that's in their vulnerability. Trying to help our clients succeed outside of vulnerability just leaves deep seated attachment fears and pain, sitting. And so really the work for me recently has been really research on how do we get into people's vulnerability and access the vulnerability. And even once we access it, what do we do with it to help them create change? So that's where I'm at. And that's where I'm kind of passionate about and enjoying right now.

Shane Birkel 5:33
Yeah, that's great. And can you say a little bit more about what that means? Exactly? Like when you say success in vulnerability, just as a concept? Yeah. As opposed to outside of vulnerability. What is what does that mean? Good? Like,

Dr. James Hawkins 5:48
that's a great question, Shane. So here's one story, I'll tell them, I'm gonna get more specific with it. And it's probably not the best story, but it works. It's worked for me. And it's been working for my clients. So me and you just hopped on the call. And let's say me, and you were in the same office right now, Shane, and I just hand you a bottle of some kind of pain relieving medication. Like, here you go, che, and you look at the bottle, and Shane says, okay, all right. Thanks, James. That's cool. Thanks, man. And you can't in the back of your head, like, why He gave me this, it's not really I don't need this right now. But if all of a sudden, Shane, you're just sitting there and you're like rubbing your head, a tear is in your eye. And you're like, James, I'm just struggling, like, I'm hurting so much. And so your, your body's putting out a clear signal, you're maybe even using your words, you're like James, I just need some help. And then I'm like, Oh, I got you, Shane, you might do let me go get like I got something for you. And I come back with that same bottle of pain medication, a bottle of water, and maybe a warm compress. Both those situations hit differently. And part of it is is because you're in the moment of of pain, that it makes my respect my comfort response hit differently. And so what happens, I want to make sure that we don't do in therapy, we want to help provide the comfort to where the pain actually lives at. And so let me be more specific here and clear. So with our clients that typically come in, I'm talking in relational therapy right now, is when they come in, they're trying to do solutions. And they're trying to do work, but they don't know how to do it inside of the pain and in the vulnerability. So neither one, one person is sometimes not able to a partner is not able to put out a clear signal like, I miss you, I need you I'm scared, I'm struggling. Life sucks. Right now, I'm doubting myself, I don't believe I'm lovable or worthy. Sometimes I just, I'm scared that I'm going to be too much for you. Like those kinds of things. So what they do is they do all kinds of, from an attachment perspective, they use secondary strategies to stay out of the vulnerability. So that's where they either go to avoidance, or this kind of like hyper arousal activity to where it's like, I'm trying to really send a signal to you without asking you to come and see me. That's where they might do this thing. Why don't you do this? Why don't you do that? Why don't you say this? Why don't you say that. And they just make it about demands, but they never show their heart. So even if their partner tries to do the demand, or say the words, it doesn't land for them, because it's not actually the vulnerable part where the pain is. Or the person who's avoidant, they're avoiding to calm things down, but it never really so soothes their nervous system, because what their nervous system actually needs is around to say like, Can I be in a vulnerable place and still be loved. When a person can go to their vulnerability, and actually receive comfort in their vulnerability, their nervous system gets a whole, it gets a different sense of actually soothing and comfort. And then an EFT particularly for us in stage two, that's what we would call second order change, if all I try and do is change your relationship outside of the vulnerability, that's just a bunch of rules and kind of concepts, but I'm not going to the actual core. Vulnerability is the core if If couples learn and relationships, learn how to get soothing in their vulnerability, it changes the whole dynamic of the relationship.

Shane Birkel 9:20
Yeah, that's great. Sometimes I you know, I tell couples, like yeah, you can you can read a relationship, like you don't need me as a therapist, right? If you can read a relationship book, and it'll tell you exactly what to do. Right. But right, I feel like part of what you're talking about is, I think what good therapy can really provide for people with is getting them into that vulnerability in order to work from from a different place to help them. I was gonna, I was going to say something about, you know, to go back to your analogy, if I'm sitting there with a headache with a really painful headache, right? And maybe because of things But I've been through in my life, I don't feel safe being vulnerable with someone else. Right? That that might be where I could either go to the sort of blaming or something and be like James White talking so loud or like, like, something like that. Right? Yeah. Or I could go to like the, the avoidant kind of have like, I'm fine. I don't need any help, you know, whatever. So part of it is, like, you know, making people feel that safety. Yeah. To to say, I'm hurting, and I need help. And I think that's so hard for people even with their partner, or maybe especially with their partner, yes, sometimes to be able to do that. Yes,

Dr. James Hawkins 10:42
yes. And actually, it's a funny thing. That's ironic in couples therapy. Have you ever had those client chain where maybe one partner has a very high performing type risky job, whether it's a lawyer, see, oh, maybe they're in the military or in first responding services, and their partner says, I like and you kind of like conjecturing about like, the fear and anxiousness that comes up from them this relationship. And both of them are kind of like, why am I scared of this? Why is this so hard, I do these hard things in my life. And I say, Hey, I totally get it, you go out there, you kick butt, you take names, I totally get it. But right here in this relationship, the risk feels different. The risk here just carry so much more way. Because here in this relationship, if things go wrong, what does that mean for you, and then they feel it, is I lose everything, it's totally exposing of me, it's almost like, in a way, when they've joined together in this relationship, it's like, I feel like if this is a part of me dies in a way. And so it's just that it's that level of risk, to be able to love and connect with someone naturally comes with the risk of the pain of also losing someone.

Shane Birkel 11:56
Yeah, I love the way you kind of slow that down, because I feel like so often, even in myself, even as a therapist, you know, in myself, I notice being disconnected from the consciousness of that, right? Like when you when you said that it really helped me sort of organize the reality of it, which is that I'm afraid of losing my partner, my family, my, you know, feeling loved that, like, if I'm just like, wrapped up in the day to day, I'm not conscious of that, necessarily. And I think that's another thing that's so helpful about what you're talking about is like, just bringing the things that are the most important to people to the forefront, you know, and helping them slow down with that, instead of whatever they think the stressors are 100%.

Dr. James Hawkins 12:44
And this is where I got to definitely give sue her credit. This is, you know, Sue demonstrated so powerfully have an ability to truly trust her clients in motion, to take her and them to where they needed help the most. And Sue had this ability to truly listen to it, and trust it. And by the way, can I say what also distinguished this for Sue and I want to give my colleague Ryan Reyna credit who I do the podcast with, but he also pointed out not only like, you know, many of us that therapists can think about, you know, sadness, pain, sorrow, but Sue also had an ability to trust secondary emotion, frustration, anger, for her, it wasn't just something to get past it was, what's the message in this frustration? What's the story behind the frustration? What's the story behind this anger? And where does it fit into the dance of your relationship? And she would decode that, and what soon as you mean you were talking about this, that I think is really big to me in my work right now is learning how to stay proximal to people's attachment distress, that's what SU was good about. Staying proximal to people's attachment distress or going back to this concept of how do I stay proximal to their vulnerability. And it's not like you just jump into it, you have to earn the right and sustain proximal looks like this for me. Sometimes when your clients come in, they're going to kind of be on the surface level. And they'll kind of they what they're doing is they're dropping little seeds, their vulnerability without knowing it. And many of our relational couples, they'll be talking about their pain or what they need in their longings, almost in very either irritated, escalated frames, or just conversational not making a big deal about it. Our job as a therapist is to listen with our ears and listen with our nervous system onboard into what Sue it says grab those emotional handles when they present them. And our clients don't even realize sometimes they're presenting them and each time my client kind of shows me an emotional handle of Shane, I think of it as I'm walking through the like they're like in the house of their A relationship has a house. And it's got all of these rooms with memories in hopes and longings. And each time it gives me a handle, it's like I'm turning a doorknob and walking into a new room. But I've got to grab the handle. And I've got to slow them down and say, Hold on, hold on, hold on. Can I Can I go back to that? Can I grab that? Can we go into this for a moment? Can I see what's in here? And what this emotion is saying, and what this your, or what this kind of like this handle is saying here? Can I stay here for a moment? Or a classic line of Sue is Sue would say she was working with Lisa Olson, another great ICF. Trainer. And Lisa, so in the in the session that Sue did with her couple 22 times Sue Johnson said to the couple, can we go back? Because a couple would say something that was loaded with pain or an emotional kind of experience or attachment experience, but they will blow right past it. But Sue said no, no, no, no. We she wanted to stay proximate to that emotional experience or that pain or the distress. And so she took the responsibility. Can we go back? Can we go back? Can we go back? Because she recognized I have to stay close to their vulnerability to help them have change. Because then we're in EFT particularly what we will say is, the negative cycle will take us right away from the vulnerability. The negative cycle wants to either avoid it or kind of escalate out of it or blame. And we're not going to let that happen. What we'll typically say, as EFT therapist says, We're not going to let the negative cycle dictate what we do in therapy, and what would mean, let me be careful, we're not gonna let the negative cycle take over the therapeutic room, we're going to notice it and we're going to name the negative cycle and what it's doing to them. And we're going to slow them down to help them do it differently, to help them shift out of the negative cycle.

Shane Birkel 16:52
Yeah, and I feel like in our society, we're conditioned to sort of like move forward in the conversation and avoid those vulnerable emotions, you know, exactly shame. Like people don't even realize that they're doing it sometimes. Or if they do, it's because it feels a lot safer to do that than it is to slow down, you know, and so all

Dr. James Hawkins 17:11
of those are exactly saying you name it, you name that perfectly. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 17:16
yeah. And I think, you know, that's a part of our responsibility as a good therapist is to, but like you said, I like that staying proximal to the attachment stress, I guess that's like, I like your analogy of grabbing on to the door handles, right? When you know that you're sort of being vigilant about the things that are coming up, even even possibly an effect that's coming up into the room, and trying to really slow that down and be curious when you when you get any opportunities like that. Exactly,

Dr. James Hawkins 17:47
shave. So let me give an example of even effect as my favorite one. If my client says something, and I see either of them take a deep breath, either water starts to come to their eye, or even if it's like, those are so easy to catch, but even if someone's been talking like, so we just we've got to change, and we've got to change things. Because if we don't change things, it's like we're gonna be all along. But hold on, hold on, hold on, can I catch that? Like, right there, your body was revved up, and it was saying something's important here. And then it slows down. Can I stay here? And get like, your body's telling me something? So can we stay here and get what your body's trying to get us to see? And what your partner needs to see. So can we stay here? Do you even slow down with this part of you? Most of the times answer is no, I don't. And that's the key part. So I want to make sure I make that practical to our listeners. It happened to me twice this week, I was working with a client. And I kept slowing them down. And even though they couldn't make their attachment distress clear, when I saw it as effectively changing them saying, I say I need to stay here to something important just came over your face. And I need to understand that. And they were like, I don't know what it is. Okay, that's all right. You don't have to know. And this is an EFT frame, like you don't have to know course you don't know, the negative cycle never gives your body the permission to slow down and stay present with this place. So not only do you not be able to get to get clear with your partner or partners, they don't get to see it and be clear with it. So I want to make sure we slow down here, because something important just happened.

Shane Birkel 19:17
I love that externalization by the way that. You know what I mean? Like the negative cycle doesn't allow you to do this, you know exactly. You got it. That's great.

Dr. James Hawkins 19:27
Yeah, then you stay there with it. And so I would say and that's me saying like, something came across your face that I need to understand. And I want to give this as a gift to many relational therapists. It was the thing that helped transform for me. Many times, if I let my clients just keep moving on past their pain like that, that that is what's going to make therapy take longer. That's what's gonna make us feel like we're spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. But when we can grab on to that emotion, and kind of grow and when that slows Session down if focus is session in. And also the reason why he said, Why are you grabbing emotion, because for us an EFT once again, see what always say emotion is the music of the dance. Emotion is the juice that makes the cycle go. So if I want that cycle to slow down, I've got to grab the emotion. If not, it's going to keep just running away with us. And I can't let it do that to us. Or here's another example going back if my clients, I have one client. And really I mean this, like bless her heart, because what happens for her is she has an ability, she'll talk about something painful, like it's a casual conversation. And she'll just mention it and keep right on going. And I'm like, hold on, hold on, hold on. You just talked about your pain, like it was a nice, pretty car on the road. You admired it, and you just drove right past it. But I don't think that's fair to you. I need I want to go so bad, like I want to go slow down. And I need to go back to that. Because that pain from your childhood that shows up right here in this relationship is still reverberates through your body? Do you ever get a chance to be clear about that? And to reach for your partner in there? Do you say Well, no, James, I don't pay attention to Okay, that makes some sense. Because the slow down and look at that pain means what for you? I'm going to be too much for other people. They're not going to like it, they're going to reject me. So that's even scary. But you need them to be there with you, don't you? So can I understand this pain? What's that? And then you start that's an EFT we'll do all of our aspect assembly. What's the message in the pain? Where do you feel this pain in your body? What do you do with this pain? Understanding what the pain means for you and your partner? But I have to stay proximal. And my clients, let me make sure I say it do me all of my clients, let me do it. No, they don't. Many of my clients will still try and avoid it, they'll try and change the topic. They'll crack jokes. Because this is vulnerability. By the way, going back to the whole success of vulnerability. Our clients bodies are so brilliant at protecting them from being hurt. Because the root word of the word vulnerability comes from a Latin word Visionaire, which means open to possibly being wounded. So actually, where our clients need what they need, if I'm going to make it clear, I hope this helps. They need to know that in a moment, when they could possibly be wounded. There's also the possibility of being loved and loved and comforted. And that's the essence of relational safety. In a place where you could hurt me you actually love to me in the more their body can get reps of that the more safe and secure their relationship becomes. The problem for most of our relationships we work with in therapy is they have prioritize protection from pain over the possibility of being loved. And so we've got to help meet them there. And so the way we do that in EFT is Go stay proximal to that attachment distress and work at deepening that. So they get them in I got this one. I think it came from Catherine to brown. She's another EFT trainer in San Diego. And Catherine De Bruyne said, in EFT, we create safety in order to take more risk. We create safety in order to take more risk.

Shane Birkel 23:15
So if I understand that tell me if if I'm understanding it correctly, it's like, well, to use your analogy again, if I'm sitting there with a headache, and I'm not sure if I can trust you, right, I might say to myself, I might say something like, you know, James, I'm fine. I don't need help. I don't want to talk about it or something like that. And if you need to create safety, for me to feel like it's okay to say I'm I'm hurting, I need help. And that's where you can take more like I'm I'm taking a risk by doing that. But I need that safety. Yeah, or I can feel take more have to take that risk.

Dr. James Hawkins 23:59
Yeah, I'm gonna stay with your great is a great example, Shane. So let me I'm gonna run it like real time. Roleplay here. So Shane, thank you so much. Like there's a part of me, I can see that you're that you're hurt at least that my body's getting a signal that there's some pain and discomfort for you che but also appreciate your brilliant words. To say, no, no, no, like, Yeah, but I don't need any help. I don't need help. I don't know if I can do this. I really appreciate your body is brilliant at knowing how to kind of look out for Shane, how to protection that yes, maybe I am hurting. But I just don't know what it's like to take in help. I really know there's the value. Here's the validation. I really appreciate that your body has a superpower to protect you. It's What's kept you safe in life. It's not something you make up in your head either saying, My My guess is that you've probably had good reasons where life taught you don't let anyone see this part of me. Am I getting that right? Yep. So first you have to lead Get off with validation. If you don't validate people's need to protect themselves, they should not open themselves up to that you see them. So in EFT we start off with a lot of validation of People's Protection. Because I don't have a right to your vulnerability if I can't see and honor your protection. And actually, I would say stage one EFT is about de escalating or stabilizing the relationship. And particularly, what I say to sometimes when I train people is we're trying to de escalate their rigid use of their protection, we have to de escalate their rage. So if I can show Shane about 1,000 times as many as he needs, that he has good reasons for his protection, and that his protection has a function. And I might even in that example, let me stay with it. So Shane, I really appreciate it. No, no, no, like you. There's a part of you, I see you're hurting. And the moment I bring a reflection to it, your body just as No, I don't know. No, James, notice, okay. I don't need How can I even stay with that? Listen to that phrasing. I'm hurting. But I don't need help. To kind of help me like, as I hear those two phrases, and it touches my body, I'm hurting. But I don't need help. I'm just curious, I get touches, my body's like, kind of feels like my body feels like I'm stuck. I'm stuck. I don't know, what is it like for Shane to be there. And that's me staying proximal to it without being a bully, and trying to make you do something, right. I run it through me and I take on the vulnerability first, as a therapist, I run it through my body to make it a human experience. And then I invite Shane to say what he can say. And I don't know what you would do with that. But that's how I would do something proximal to that type thing.

Shane Birkel 26:43
Yeah. And it's so it's like asking for consent. You know, it's so respectful of the person's experience and their boundaries and what they need in that moment. You know, you're, you're sort of asking permission as you go. And you're not you're like you said you're not forcing it, you're not creating an oppositional force, you know, that they would, you know, one more thing that they could protect against, right. I

Dr. James Hawkins 27:08
like that don't create like this, I'm have to work that into my training.

Shane Birkel 27:13
Yeah. But yeah, that validation of the protector, right. Like, there's, there's such good reason why this has probably served you at times in your life, you know, 100, this is part of you that is helpful. And just making suggestions about, you know, is it really helping you in certain relationship, things that you might want to, you know, yeah, I'm not using good good words here

Dr. James Hawkins 27:42
for you. I like where you go. And that's somewhat of as you earn more safety, you could do something like that, because it could be like, you know, and so I just want to honor right here in this place where you feel this pain, that is hard for you to let your partner see it for whatever reason, you know, but it's, I appreciate the part where it's protecting you, am I getting that? Right? You can say yeah, but then also, can I explore another part, and I want to be safe, and I want to be cautious here. But also, I wonder, like, at what cost is it come to shame, that's right, that's gonna be in pain. And then not be able to show it to anybody. Because now this is where I'm gonna steal from attachment. Because over and over, what I keep seeing over and over again, is we're always going to have pain in life. But what research tells me is to be in pain and be alone, your body is like an increased load to carry that pain by yourself. So what's that like for Shane to have to be in pain, but not feel like he can show that to the world or not even the world saying, this is a hard one. But to this person who means so much to you, you're still not sure if you can show it? What's that like for you?

Shane Birkel 28:48
Yeah, and I feel I would say my words would be that you're creating an internal motivation, or some kind of leverage for them to feel like, Oh, this is something that I want for my exactly right. Not not because anyone's telling me, but this is something, you're connecting it to what I want.

Dr. James Hawkins 29:04
Yeah. I like one of my avoidant partners. He told me he, he put it in good words for me. He said, James, oh, you're making me see the consequences, as What do you mean? He said, You show me what I was doing. And you showed me the good reasons why I was doing it. But you also showed me the cost on the other side, you showed me what it was costing me. You showed me what it was costing my partner, and you showed me what it was costing my relationship. I had never really considered that before. Because that's what our clients are doing. That protection is a short term protection. The problem for clients is when short term protection becomes a rule for life. All of us need to protect the hearts at moments in times we're not trying to take that away from our partners. The world is not always nice to us. And your partner can't always be available, but it's when it becomes a rigid rule for life is when it becomes scary. Yeah, inside note nug It you know, you and I have talked about the shame. That's been one of the things I also want to encourage therapists. That's why they need to think about this across. For, for people groups who have been marginalized and oppressed is that life has given them meaning even outside their love relationships, their identity as a person has also caused them to erect certain forms of protection. And so we have to learn how to validate their protection, and stay proximal to their pain in the context of their lived experience.

Shane Birkel 30:34
Yeah, that's great. And I love the idea that there's no right or wrong, good or bad, right? I often say, there's two sides to the coin, right, whatever, whatever that person's relational stances, there are a lot of strengths that go along with that relational stance, there are a lot of things that this has accomplished for you and your life that are good things and things that I want to continue for you might need in certain situations. And the flip side of that coin, might be what it's costing you in this relationship, or

Dr. James Hawkins 31:07
exactly, you know, one of my frames I like to use when I'm working with, and I will say any client, but it came to me when I was working with a black male client. And the frame was, hey, do I get it, man, I understand the armor that you have to wear in life, I totally get that. And I would be crazy to tell you to not put that armor on as you go out into the world, that would be crazy of me. But here's where I'm concerned for for you is that when you come home to your family, and you can't take the armor off. And then your family doesn't get to see you inside the armor, or all the wounds, all the pain and everything you go through some one, you don't even get to let these parts of you out. And then to your family's trying to fight to connect with you and you love them and you see them because the armor, you still have that visor, and you can see them, and you can see what they're going through. But the armor doesn't really let you make that flesh, the flesh contact with them. So all I'm fighting for really is how can we help know when to put the armor on and when to take the armor off. And who to do that with. So that way it doesn't rob you while it's protecting you out in society. I don't want you to I don't want the racism and oppression you experienced in society to also rob you of the love and connection that you get that you should be able to get at home. Oh, I

Shane Birkel 32:26
love that. That's beautiful. Yeah. You know, and, and who doesn't want to say yes to that invitation. Right? Right. Like, when you frame it like that, you know?

Dr. James Hawkins 32:36
Yeah, and I want to give one more shout out to because I'm Gail Palmer. She's a she was a really close working with Sue. She did a lot of the ICF certification stuff. And I was watching her work with someone's vulnerability and what we would call stage two of EFT. And Gail couldn't, she kept trying to like highlight and maybe work with the pain of the person and they kept kind of blocking her out of it. And then she switched her focus as she started talking about their hopes and their longing. And I'm like, That's interesting move as I got to ask Gail after the session, what she was doing there. And I said, Gail, what what happened there, she said, Oh, James, she says longing and pain are two sides of this. Longing and pain are two sides of the same coin to access the one also accesses the other. Because right on the other side of our clients pain, that she this is what we believe from a humanistic attachment perspective, right on the other side of their pain is also some hope and desire for comfort. And so if I start talking about their hope, and their desire for comfort, or for the relationship to be different or connected, on the other side of that is going to be their pain, because their body remembers all the attempts and years of when they couldn't do it.

Shane Birkel 33:48
Hmm. Interesting. It makes me think about, you know, for people who might be newer therapists who are learning how to how to be good couples therapists, you know, when you were talking about, you know, staying proximal to the attachment distress, I think there's also an art form of sort of respecting the resistance that, you know, and that made me think about when you mentioned, Gail, like, when you move in on something, you grab that doorknob, there's a time to be respectful to the push back and back off, and then see if you can try a different doorknob, right? That's right. That doesn't mean that you just hold on to it just because you know that there's something there. That's correct. You need to make that client feel that safety in that relationship in the moment, I think, and

Dr. James Hawkins 34:35
100%. Sure. And that's why if you notice there's and actually this proximal came from like Ryan Raina was watching. He's like, James, what helped you in that session, I was seeing a couple who was a trauma on both sides, infidelity on both sides, in diagnosis of bipolar disorder. For one of them. It was really hard to keep them focused. And in the recording what made it such in different ways, Ryan said, James, you just stayed so proximal to their pain. Here's the reason why the word proximal stood out when Ryan said it was it meaning I just stayed in the area, even if I let. Now this might sound a little bit rough to what people tell people is, I might let you breathe, but I won't let us leave. And what I mean is, I will give you space and respect your space around your pain, but I'm also not going to just walk away from it. And what I mean by that is I won't abandon you. If your pain comes up, and you let me see, we're getting close. I will give you respect, but also I won't, I won't ignore that it's there. So you caught that chain is I'm just saying proximal, and I let the clients level of safety dictate how much of it we can go into.

Shane Birkel 35:48
And with EFT This is more of a logistical question. But do you typically do weekly sessions? Do you typically do like the normal 50 minutes? Or, you know, whatever it is? And that's it?

Dr. James Hawkins 36:02
Yes, typically, it is the hourly, I have been getting into a little bit more, I've been doing some marriage intensives with a colleague of mine, just trying my hand out there. And I think both serve a purpose. But definitely most times, for me, it is weekly. Because there is a part where I am trying to hold you in the space with therapeutically I think of it like I used to work in a physical therapy clinic one time on a rotation when I was a medic in the military, but anyway, and what the reason why a physical therapist sometimes will have you come in weekly is because they are trying to progressively begin to stretch a muscle to get you to help get range of motion back. I think we as therapists are doing something similar, that some of our clients do need to come in weekly, because we are progressively taking them through a series of exercises to kind of stretch their attachment or emotional relational muscles. And to let them kind of come in sparsely once every three to four weeks, it's almost like the muscle locks back up in between and you have to start over all over again. And then sometimes I do think sometimes intensive now what I've do with intensives, I only take couples for intensives, who are just really in a very rigid, stuck place. And they need a very intense like kind of massage stretching session to help them and send them back to their therapist just to get to go back to work. Or they're wanting to get into therapy, but they're in a really tight bind. And I won't take them as an intensive couple unless they promised me that they're already on a waiting list for another therapist.

Shane Birkel 37:32
And you and you would often send them to another therapist after the intensive for always

Dr. James Hawkins 37:36
treat always. I tell them that in my informed consent. I need you to either have it planned or planned soon after to go see a therapist. I just feel like that's the most responsible thing to do.

Shane Birkel 37:48
But I mean, as opposed to you being able to take them on. Oh, yeah, yeah. Going?

Dr. James Hawkins 37:53
Basket. Yeah, that's a good point, Shane, I haven't explored that right now. I just like being able to send them on to someone else. Yeah, for right now.

Shane Birkel 38:00
Yeah. And I think it depends what people need. Right? I think there's so many different, you know, variables to consider.

Dr. James Hawkins 38:08
Yep, I'm still building the plane as I fly it right now? I don't know. I don't know the answer. Well,

Shane Birkel 38:12
yeah, not Well, I love your analogy of physical therapy, right? Because for certain clients, that makes total sense to me, you know, where, and you know, I hear people say that they sometimes they appreciate sort of like having a week to practice with their partner, once we experience what happens in the therapy, and then they can sort of take a week to sort of let it sink in and practice and then, you know, come back the next week, and it's a really, it can be a really good pacing for a lot of couples,

Dr. James Hawkins 38:40
100%. I like that, especially if they are going back to the idea of proximal to pain, sometimes in between sessions. Depending on where the clients are trying not to give them too much that's going to make them fail in a way. But I do want to say hey, can we just even between this week, when these this kind of pain and distress comes up, and you can you to learn to just stay stay with it and be a little bit more curious with it, and what you do with it. And if you don't feel safe enough, maybe you can try talking about it. But here, this is maybe being a little bit strategic here. But I don't expect you to succeed at it. And if it starts going sideways, pause it and bring that into therapy so we can know where it keeps breaking down. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 39:21
that's great. I, I was thinking about that before when you were talking about something else, the way that you sort of normalize whatever it is that happens. You're sort of like, Oh, of course, of course. That's what happened. Like, like that. I feel like that feels like so full of compassion for them. Right? It's not because it made because it makes perfect sense. There's something about what they've been through that makes them respond to situations in a certain way. And I think it just helps people feel you know, helps people through that process. If they're not adding all kinds of extra judgment on top of whatever they're struggling with,

Dr. James Hawkins 39:56
you know, that's right. 100%

Shane Birkel 39:58
Yeah, I love that. But the way you talk about it can you mention your podcast and your the online training success and vulnerability again, and just just to let people know where they can find that and things like that?

Dr. James Hawkins 40:13
Yeah, thank you, Shane. appreciate, you know, can I want to make sure I say thank you, Shane, thank you for the communities you've created man. Like, you know, sometimes we could be, you know, human beings can be territorial. But here you are on your podcast asking me to go back and tell about my podcast. I just I just want to say that speaks to you as a human being. So thank you for that. You know, absolutely,

Shane Birkel 40:32
man, I really appreciate you and I appreciate. You know, like, I just learned so much just talking to you here. And it makes me think like, oh my gosh, I want to go listen to your podcast. See what more you have to say.

Dr. James Hawkins 40:46
Yeah. So thank you, Shane. Appreciate it, man. So yeah, the podcast, the leading edge and Emotionally Focused Therapy with my colleague, Dr. Ryan Rana, that podcasts we're trying to take things that we're learning, with our supervisees with our clients, and we're trying to we try to be disciplined to keep them at to 30 Minutes or Less nuggets of learning and focus. It is particularly aimed at EFT or attachment oriented therapists, if you don't do EFT, and we do have people who don't do EFT that listen to us. It is aimed at clinicians, even though we did get a mail in letter from someone who's a client that said they listened to the podcast to help understand what was happening to them in therapy. And it really helped them out. So anyway, but it's mainly aimed at therapists. And that's the focus of that success and vulnerability. Once again, it's an online training program to help people who have gone through EFT core skills and externship, and all that to have a way where they could do self paced determined learning on their own. And what I like about it is either me, George or Ryan, we're doing teaches on a concept. And then we also have to eat that we have an EFT supervisor that works with us in our production manager is also trained in EFT. And then we do practice exercises, we show actual real sessions of us demonstrating the skills we just taught you, or at least trying to demonstrate the skills we just taught you. We have an online library of us just doing sessions and doing commentary about the sessions. Oh, that's what, that's what our learners have said that helps us the most. And so we try to let you inside our mind of what we're thinking actually in the session and what we're trying to do, where we get stuck, where we think it's a win, to break it down for you. It's coming from a little bit of the idea of deliberate practice. And that the way that like they would say the way that you become a chess master is not just by going out and playing a lot of chess, the way you become a chess master is you watch as you watch 1000s of hours of other of watching chess masters, and breaking down and analyzing them, which is why I like your podcast. So you're allowing experts to come on here so that therapists can learn from them. So that's what our video library is about. But we've also started a new concept of what we call is SV lives. And so once a month, we come on for two hours. And we people can come in and do a live experience with us. In either we do we do one of these session right now, where we teach on a concept and then show it in a session. And then that way, it's a little bit more close and intimate with either me, George or Ryan, or sometimes the whole team is there to once again just focus in on our learning. And sometimes we're trying out new ideas there. And so the therapists get to be kind of on the cutting edge of an idea whether so

Shane Birkel 43:29
Oh, very cool. I haven't gone through this in a long time. So I'd really appreciate if you could just go through it really quickly. But if there's somebody who's EFT curious out there, who hasn't, you know, maybe they've done some small training but haven't really done much training in it. The first thing that they would want to do is the externship is that right? Wow,

Dr. James Hawkins 43:52
she told me there's been a lot of change like Sue did a lot before she before she died. So there's a new course out now and this one is completely optional is called Fun EFT fundamentals. Okay. And in the EFT fundamentals, it's a little bit of a shorter course to introduce you to EFT very is very short. And it shows you all three modalities at the same time. So in the course you'll watch part of a session like with a couple in stage one and a couple and stage two will also show you us doing e fit Emotionally Focused Therapy with individuals and they will show you a session of us doing Emotionally Focused family therapy and we're showing you all three at a time to get you introduced to EFT okay, then after that, this is where it's also changing. You now EFT has what we call three different tracks. Okay, so there's still the couple track and if you want to go couples, you go to the externship and then you do core skills after that and then supervision. Then now we have in a mostly focused individual therapy track where you You know, I'm not really doing couples, I just want to do individuals. Or maybe you say I do couples, but also I want to specialize in individuals. Then what we have what we call our E fit essential classes we have is E fit essentials one and two. And those are two days apiece, or sometimes some trainers do them all at one time for days like the externship, and they'll do nothing but EFT with individuals. Okay. And then after that, I think you do some supervision in individual work. And then you can be certified as Emotionally Focused as an E fit therapist. Then they also started another track for families. And I think that one also has a essentials one and two. And I don't know all the details of that track yet, but so EFT so what Sue did is creating these three different tracks. Okay,

Shane Birkel 45:46
great. Yeah, thank you. That's super helpful. Yeah. So people can go and find out more information look into that. If that does, that's super helpful. The way you said that, but if they are interested in the couples therapy track, you know, start with the EFT fundamentals may be

Dr. James Hawkins 46:05
optional, but you don't have to. You don't have to go to fundamentals if you want to. But if you want to go ahead and jump straight into like an externship or essentials, you can.

Shane Birkel 46:13
Okay, great. And then the core skills would be after that. Exactly. And then your success and vulnerability would be probably all of that best for someone who's done all that already.

Dr. James Hawkins 46:25
I think so. Yeah. Yeah.

Shane Birkel 46:27
Cool. Cool. All right. Great. That was that's helpful. You know, just, there's a lot of different people at different stages, you know, who probably want to we're interested in where to start. So that's really helpful.

Dr. James Hawkins 46:38
Thank you for clarifying. I appreciate that.

Shane Birkel 46:40
No, thank you. What's your website so people can find out more about you?

Dr. James Hawkins 46:44
Thank you, Shane. I forget about I have one of those. If you want to know more about me, or my training schedule, you can go to DocHawkLPC.com. And you can learn about marriage intensives. I do. You can see my whole training schedule. Me and Shane. Were just talking. I'll be up in Boston a couple times. I'm going to Alaska and, and cake. I'll be at the in Cape Cod as well, too. So yeah, nice. Great,

Shane Birkel 47:15
good. Well, it's always great to catch up. And hopefully we can do it again, much sooner than we took this last time.

Dr. James Hawkins 47:22
Thank you, Shane. Thank you to your whole audience. Appreciate you. Yeah.

Shane Birkel 47:26
Appreciate you, James. Take care. Alright. Thank you so much, James. And thank you to all your listeners out there. So grateful for all of you. I just think that James is such an amazing teacher when it comes to couples therapy. And if you enjoyed this conversation, you can also go back to episode number 132, where we talked about racialized trauma, which is a very different topic, but we had a conversation about that. So also go to CouplesTherapistCouch.com. And you can find all of the episodes there more free resources that you can take advantage of. And I'd really love for you to join the Couples Therapist Couch Facebook group, you can join over 6,000 other therapists who just like to talk about couples therapy, ask each other questions, give each other support, stuff like that. So thank you again for listening. I'm Shane Birkel. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and this is The Couples Therapist Couch. Have a good week, everybody!

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