I went to George Faller's Training on Highly Escalated Couples

Hooollllllyyyyy crap.

The George Faller training.

Where do I even begin.

Let me start with the most important message: whatever you need to do, whatever plans or sacrifices you need to make, if you want to start getting clear on what you’re doing as an EFT therapist you must go to a George Faller training (links below).

I hear a lot of therapists say they want to re-do Core Skills, understandably, because going over and over this material is so necessary for absorbing and integrating EFT. Please don’t spend all the time and money to do that. Please go to a George Faller training instead (and any Jennifer Olden and Lillian Buchanan EFT Lab online training which are so good I will promote until the day I die).

Frankly, I came into this training with some skepticism. I was concerned I was going to hear another general version of the same things we hear all the time: validate, put it back in the cycle, REALLY validate, understand trauma, but wait, also, have you validated?

(ok, validation was a part of the training but I realized that I did not actually know what that word meant. Now I know that I actually have not been validating, just sympathetically reflecting. More on this in the next post.)

Also George has a magnetic energy, so I was concerned the training was going to be about watching a super-star who can access places with clients because of his unique being, versus learning transferable skills. 

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A lot of EFT trainers are extremely talented, but struggle to give concrete tools and specific moves for how to help you do what they do, and they do more of a modeling approach. George did a fantastic job of giving us an action plan. I don’t think it’s overstating it when I say Everyone at that training was gasping with relief at being given more tools and more awareness of how to get back on track in session.

There were some neon letter takeways from this training I’ll spend future posts integrating, but today I want to talk about his emphasis on FOCUS. 

He said that most therapists do not have focus in the room. We may have some idea of a plan going in, but as each partner escalates and gets activated, the therapist lets themselves be pulled towards one and then the other until the focus goes totally to mush.

This is totally true for my work. I’ve been feeling like I am just lost in these reactive sessions, and helpless to get us out of the cycle forcefield in the room. As Mr. Kenny Sanderfer, the wisest and kindest and gentlest Southern grandfather you wish you had said, “we are just stuck in the cul-dee-sac going ‘round and ‘round.”

I learned that when I get pulled by the other partner’s interruption, or feel stuck and then I randomly transition and start asking questions to the other partner, I’m not only losing focus, I’m also abandoning the person I was working with. I never realized I was abandoning them, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. George emphasized that whenever we transition to the other, to make sure the person we’ve been talking to is validated and we explain why we’re transitioning, and sometimes even get permission to transition.

He helped us understand that to maintain focus, you need to be able to anticipate what could break that focus, then have a plan for what to do. George broke down the listening-partner interruptions into three categories: (examples are mine)

Green Light – empathetic

Example: “I didn’t know he felt so sad, wow, I don’t want you to feel like a failure”

Yellow Light – empathy combined with mistrust

 Example: “I’m surprised to see you feel sad about letting me down, but then why do you always get on your phone every time I need to talk to you about something serious?”

Red Light – totally mistrusting and hostile

Example: “There’s NO WAY that’s true, you’re just an asshole who would rather be on his phone than have ANY HUMAN CONNECTION EVER!!” 

He emphasized the need for a plan when this happens, and to see these interruptions as likely to happen so you aren’t totally thrown off guard. Even hearing this helped me get my head clearer. Even to see these as interruptions to my focus was a new thought. Even thinking the interruptions are all to do with mistrust was revolutionary. 

As he was talking, I was thinking of a session I had a few weeks ago and cringing in my seat. I have an escalated couple where the Pursuer demands all my focus for most of the session. The few times I’m able to try and explore what’s happening for the Withdrawer always go completely off the rails. In the room, just before I’m about to drop the Withdrawer down more into their internal experience and view of self, the Pursuer jumps in and halts the entire process with their distress. Inside I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me? I give you 60 minutes per session to hear and understand your pain, and the few moments I have to work with your partner, and we’re getting to exactly what you need to feel better, and you’re cutting off the process??”

Just like for our clients, my empathy for the Pursuer was stunted because I didn’t understand what they were doing. I couldn’t make sense of what was happening, other than thinking they were dysregulated by hearing really anything from their partner. I feel ashamed writing this, thinking of how I have not been able to make sense of her behavior for myself or for this couple, and instead sending them a veiled message that indeed something is wrong with her. God, this work makes us see our worst parts.

George normalized this Pursuer interruption. He explained that not only is it understandable that they interrupt here, it’s the most common place you’ll get an interruption. He stated, beautifully, “This is the moment where they are seeing the ‘bad guy’ turn into ‘the stranger.’”

He then outlined in detail how you handle each level of interruption in order to validate both and also maintain focus in the session, which I don’t want to go into without more permission from him because he has worked hard to create this material and deserves to be compensated for it.

I hope, though, what I’m sharing so far is valuable. To re-cap:

1)  It is the therapist’s responsibility to have a focus to the session of your intention. And certainly have some flexibility that the plan could change, but know WHY you’re changing that plan. Have intention around changing that plan. Your plan was to try to do a Step 2 with the Pursuer? Why did that change? Did something else seem more important? What was that? Why was it more important? What’s your plan to validate and hold both in that process?

2)  There are fairly predictable ways your focus will be thrown off, whether it’s from the partner, the primary client, or the therapist, and we can anticipate them, empathize with them, and have a plan for them.

3)  Mistrust is what interrupts or blocks your process, and that’s so helpful, because we can validate and make that mistrust explicit.

4)  There are concrete moves to processing those interruptions and returning to focus

5)  Go.To.A.George.Faller.Training.

 

I am so grateful for this training, and for Kenny for hosting George so we could have this opportunity, and yet honestly I’m also pretty frustrated. This training had maybe 55 people in it, which was a wonderful size for we participants. But this training should have thousands of people in it. So many people had no clue this training was happening. This training should be done in a mega-arena with every couples therapist in the area lined up to get in. Part of my mission is to spread the word about these trainings because we desperately need them. If you find this post helpful, please forward to therapists you know, because sharing is an act of service. 

I found this training through The National Marriage Seminars.  

George’s NYC EFT website is here

George’s own website is here