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Encounter-Focused Couples Therapy: A powerful method for connecting two people, for creating safety in a relationship, for learning to listen and to hear each other more authentically

This past weekend I assisted in leading a couples workshop in Miami, with Hedy Schleifer, MA,LMHC and her husband Yumi. The workshop, enitled “An Adventure in Intimacy”, is based on Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy, a model that includes a fascinating blend of ideas derived from relational psychology, attachment studies, developmental psychology and the recent burgeoning field of neuro-affective research. Concepts and ideas from these various academic fields have been distilled into a clear model of couples therapy that teaches partners to create an interpersonal encounter of a different quality, one in which each of them is listened to and met on their own terms, so that they mutually feel truly understood.

The essence of encounter-centered couples therapy is captured by the idea that our relationship lives in “the space in between” us. This relational space needs to be honored, needs to be tended like a garden. Ask yourself: is what I am about to say going to honor that relational space or pollute it?

40 couples ranging widely in age gathered for an intensive three full days experience, learning through lectures and demonstrations how to practice a new way of giving each other the benefit of their full attention, and listening to each other with “new ears”, as they took turns hearing each other discussing issues which have been problematic in their relationships. Rather than seeing conflicts as problems to be solved, encounter-centered couples therapy views conflicts as opportunities that allow us to stumble upon unfinished business. Conflicts and repeated frustrations in the couple relationship can point us in the direction of old wounds, allowing us to gain a new capacity to reflect upon the early origins of our relational difficulties and find more conscious, more intentional and more relationally mature ways to be intimate with our loved ones and with our children, and even with others who “push our buttons”.

To view Hedy’s Ted talk go to: .

Irit Felsen

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