Wedging Through The Shame

One of the most valuable pieces I’m taking away from the Kathryn Rheem and Jennifer Olden Video Café is how to work with shame, and the negative view-of-self.

We all know how slippery these moments are to work with in session. Once a client touches into their shame, or how bad they see themselves, it’s like they fall through a trap door into quick sand. Their affect changes, their presence in the room changes, their ability to continue with the session often changes. In EFT, we heighten emotion, but we don’t heighten shame. Even knowing that, it can be hard to know how to track or even reflect that shame without heightening it. 

Kathryn talked about how the therapist becomes a wedge between the shame and the client. We are working to create some air and some space between the client and what they think they are, since they are so fused together in shame. There are two key ways she talked about doing this, that I have found SO helpful in my sessions since then.

1)  Instead of reflecting what that person believes about themselves, you reflect that this is their WORST FEAR about themselves.

2)  The therapist works to externalizethe shame by using visuals and parts language.

This is how I conceptualize how I could sound different in session using these tools:

Not so helpful: Reflecting the belief and inadvertently heightening shame

Client: I’m damaged, I’m corrupt in some way, I’m sorry.
Therapist: When you see her get upset, you see yourself as damaged, as not worthy of this person who loves you so much?
Client: Right, why would she want me? I’m going to mess this up somehow.
Therapist: Even though she is trying to tell you otherwise, it’s so hard to see yourself as worthy.
Client: Yep. Might as well give up.
Therapist internally: AHHHH nooooo!!! I’m losing you, we’re sinking down further and further!

More helpful: Reflecting the fear and externalizing the shame

Client: I’m damaged, I’m corrupt in some way, I’m sorry.
Therapist: This is your worst fear, this fear of I am damaged or corrupt in some way?
Client: Yeah, that I’m hopeless, bad for her.
Therapist: Ahhh, that fear sounds so powerful when it grips you like that. When you see her get upset, that fear comes alive inside of you, maybe I am damaged in some way? What does that fear feel like when it comes in?
Client: Like a ton of bricks on my chest, like I can’t move out from under it.
Therapist: So one part of you gets pinned down, under this ton of self-worth bricks, fearing you aren’t worthy, and is there another part in there, a part that somehow is able to stay in this relationship despite all these self-worth bricks?

No matter what tool we use, shame is tricky. I don’t think there’s a magic phrase that suddenly solves this issue for a client, and sometimes I do lose the client to the shame quick sand and we lose traction in the session. But working with the idea of naming it as the clients worst fear, and externalizing visually, help me feel like I have some things to hold on to when these tough moments come up in session.

K. Rheem and J. Olden (2018) EFT Video Café, Stage 2.

Kathryn Rheem and Jennifer Olden Are Giving Me Hope in Stage 2

I just started the Stage 2 Video Café with Jennifer Olden and Kathryn Rheem. This training is where we watch tapes of Kathryn working with a Stage 2 couple, and she explains her thinking, what we need to see and get to with each step, and how to conceptualize each partner in this stage. And Jennifer guides the process, asks great questions, and slows Kathryn down at key points so we’re able to soak up as much as we can. 

This training is insanely cheap, it’s only $50 for the actual video café. You do need to purchase her tapes of the couple, which (with the discount) comes to $240. But for Jennifer and Kathryn to only charge us $50 for their work over 8 weeks is crazy discounted. This means that after production costs, they’re basically making enough to buy themselves a bagel and spending 8 weeks of their own time helping us learn this stuff. 

Let me tell you, if Kathryn Rheem said she was going to just record herself thinking out loud about random EFT things for an hour, I would pay $500 to get that. Hearing her speak is like being showered with SOLID GOLD RAINDROPS OF GENIUS. God, I wish she’d write a book. Or just live stream her thoughts to us all the time.

I think the main thing most of us took away from the first session is Kathryn’s transparency in the process with her clients. (I know this because at the end, Jennifer asked us all what we are taking away and everyone said, “TRANSPARENCY!!”). She spoke about this in a way that truly changed how I think about helping clients understand what we're doing.

She said, in such a lovely way, she started being more transparent because she simply couldn’t hold everything in her head. So she asks permission, saying, “Is it ok if I’m more transparent about what I’m thinking, and about where we are?” I imagine all her clients become little heart-eye emojis when she says this.

She said that Jim Coan, the great researcher, said we wake up in the morning with two questions:

1)  How am I doing?

2)  What’s next?

So she uses that in every session. Every session she wants her clients to understand how they are doing, where they are right now in the process, and what’s coming up next. 

I loved thinking about this, and helping a client understand that right now, our task is to get a clear picture of the cycle, and in a while, we will be deepening those emotions, understanding some of the more vulnerable feelings. She talked about how before going into Stage 2, she helps prepare them, asking the Withdrawer how it will be for them that she’ll be spending more time focusing on them at first. She asks the Pursuer how it will be for them that she’s spending more time opening up with their partner and less time with them. 

Kathryn only uses a sentence or two, not a giant monologue about what each step and stage is. Just hearing some of these sign posts she gives clients about the process made me relax more. I could imagine how much safer and more secure it would feel for a client, particularly one with trauma, to know more about where we are now and where we're going up ahead. 

There were so many gems from this session I can’t include even 10% of them. It makes me profoundly grateful for what Jennifer and Kathryn, and other EFT Masters, generously give us to help us get better and better for our clients. 


In Session with Kathryn Rheem -

It’s heeeeeerrreee!!! The In Session episode with Kathryn Rheem.

I think we resonate with certain EFT masters for different reasons. For me, there’s just something about Kathryn Rheem I’ve always been drawn to. Watching her webinars, it’s plain to see that she is so freaking smart. She is able to conceptualize Pursuers and Withdrawers unlike anyone else, and explain her conceptualization with such clarity. She also seems to have this nice quality about her that she kind of knows what’s up. I think it would be hard to bullshit Kathryn Rheem. I just love that combo of empathy and strength.

When I knew Becca Jorgensen would be having her on “In Session” I got excited months in advance. I had “KATHRYN RHEEM!!” written in my planner. And guys, she did not disappoint.

I really lucked out with this episode. First of all, it was with one of her ongoing couples. I find this so much more valuable than just watching therapists do Live sessions for trainings. The Live sessions are great, don’t get me wrong, but the ongoing sessions are the ones you and I have every day. And you see the relationship, the couples be more who they are, and the normal fluff that can get in the way. This episode was also a treat because it showed a male pursuer, and I actually have many male pursuer clients and find them quite challenging. AND it showed a Stage 2 Pursuer Softening with that client. It was so helpful to see Kathryn allow the Pursuer to lean in and out throughout the process in order to regulate himself, versus a continuous holding his feet to the fire of the primary emotions.

There is so much I could share with you about this episode it’s hard to pick just a few things. Let me share two conceptualizing gems, and a few ways she worded things that I saw really helped the Pursuer connect to their emotions. 

“No human is capable for holding another’s secondary emotion.”

Ahhh! When I heard this it made so much sense. She said she had helped the couple understand this paradigm shift in the last session. Doesn’t that feel right? It’s impossible to hold a partner’s annoyance, frustration, and anger AT US. We can hold a partner’s loneliness, hurt, vulnerability, and need FOR US.

She also had a moment where she shared she didn’t like what she said (she was so vulnerable and human about this), and Becca Jorgensen said something really lovely about the fact that in Stage 2, “these moments are new for everyone in the room, including the therapist.” That helped me do a big exhale, that these moments we long for are also new for us, and we all three will stumble a bit as we are in this new territory. For the record, Kathryn’s “mistake” was like, nothing. She’s got some high standards for herself.

She was so gifted in her craft of language, and the small ways she shaped her words to help the Pursuer connect more to his primary emotions and his scary vulnerable place inside. I wanted to share some, and I hope even without context they will be valuable.

“I wonder if I can help you make contact with what’s happening on the inside …”

“Could we experiment with sharing that feeling? My assumption is that it could create a bonding moment, but I get that the fear says, ‘it’s too much,’”

“So you do a lot with this ache inside … I want to help make it so normal to share, it’s data that your marriage needs.”

“Let’s make this fair to you, honoring the cognitive part that can see all the blessings you have, and this other part that longs to know you’re loved anyway, you’re accepted anyway.”

“You’re strong, there’s a little bit of room left in that backpack … I’ll just get stronger instead, but there’s this dark side of getting stronger …”

She has this way of being transparent about the process that doesn’t sound psychoeducational at all. Like a really loving mom, coming alongside someone saying, “here we go, this is what we’re doing, here’s a big step, there you go! You did it, that was scary but you did it.” I think I could use all the phrases she said above in various sessions to help guide clients to connect more with their inner experience in a safe way. 

Thank you Becca and Kathryn for helping us learn from you!

Kathryn shared she has put together a video series on this same couple doing step-by-step Withdrawer Re-engagement and Pursuer Softening. It’s not out yet, but check her website for when it will be ready.


In Session is seven sessions with seven different EFT trainers showing their work and explaining their thought process. Learn more here.

*disclaimer: I was given this course for free in exchange for my honest opinion about it.

In Session #3 with Lieven Migerode - The Power of Reflection

Well, I want to write and tell you all about In Session #3 with Lieven Migerode, a trainer from Brussels, but I can’t, because I’m passed out on the floor from how incredible it was. I am so grateful to Rebecca Jorgensen for knowing these trainers and having them on this webinar. I had never heard of Lieven Migerode before today but now I’ll never forget him.

Watching Lieven do EFT was next level. When you see EFT like this, it’s mind-blowing. This is the kind of clinician I think could fix all my couples in 5 sessions. And never get a hair out of place. Meanwhile I’m in there with a screwdriver and hammer and duct tape sweating my buns off trying to get them to see each other. Lieven is the kind of clinician that epitomizes why EFT is categorized as experiential. He is able to give the client the actual experience in the room of coming together  in a new way and feeling the love and security in that vulnerable, connected moment.

I’m going to try and describe this session to you, but know that my words are garbage compared to watching him work. Might he be an alien sent from Planet EFT to show us what flawless EFT looks like? It’s very possible. If it sounds like I’m being overly exuberant, I know some of you reading this saw the episode with me and I feel very confident you are nodding your heads in agreement. Part of what was so powerful about this session is that it was a Stage 1, Step 2 and a little Step 3. Since I feel like that's where all my sessions are no matter long I've been seeing the couple, it was especially powerful to see this kind of work in Stage 1. 

What was the most evident in Lieven’s work was the power of reflection. Guiding a couples session is such sensitive work. One slight turn of the wheel and you take the couple down a completely different road. Lieven used reflection to slow the process down and guide the process in a masterful way. He was really thoughtful the way he began the session reflecting with them. He was doing a live session with someone else’s couple, so he had the task of establishing alliance and getting to some important parts of the cycle work quickly. And yet he really took his time to reflect back to each partner, especially the pursuer. Almost immediately you could see the couple trust that he was getting them. He reflected with lovely validation and tiny attachment conjectures.

The female pursuer was explaining that she tries to be careful with how she brings up issues to her partner, and thinks about it before hand to see how she could say things to him.

Here, I probably would have done a too-fast reflection. I think I would have just said, “hmm-mm, you try hard not to come on too strong, and you hold back until you can’t anymore,” and continued with the information gathering.

Lieven reflected slowly, “I understand. You have the need to say something … and on the other side, you don’t want to push him away, because you want love to be connected, you want a better connection. And you sense that it can be too much for him so you have to balance this. And so you must always have this idea, “Am I doing it right? Am I doing it right?”

In that one short paragraph, he let her know: I am really hearing you. I hear that you are not a bad person. I hear that you have a tension inside yourself of trying to balance your needs and the pain of feeling like you push him away, or he’s leaving you again. I hear that this anxiety is with you all the time of, “Am I going to get this right enough to not lose this person?”

I love that he verbalized what is such a consistent drum-beat for Pursuers – I’m working so hard, but I can’t get my needs met, and then I'm punished by being left alone. And he phrased it in such a lovely and attachment-oriented way.

At this early stage of learning EFT, I still think of intakes and tracking the cycle as information-gathering. I’m trying to compute and assess all the information I’m hearing to make sure I’m getting who the pursuer and withdrawer is, and their cycle. Watching Lieven showed me what to do with that early information in a totally different way. It was almost like there was a clear pond between them, and Lieven would, with his slow, thoughtful reflections, place what the client said on the pond and then they were all three looking at it calmly together. With his lovely voice, pacing, and presence he seemed to neutralize the energy in the room so just vulnerability and curiosity remained.

You could see them both visibly relax when he reflected slowly to them. It seemed like they knew they weren’t going to have to constantly explain themselves to him. That is such a safe feeling, isn’t it? To feel seen and understood. As an anxious pursuer myself, if things get rocky or I feel like my character is being questioned, I will go into a very verbal explaining/defending mode. But if I feel like there is at least one person in the room who believes I’m a good person, I can hold my center and not defend myself in an anxious way.  I wonder if this is what Lieven really wanted us to understand with the power of reflecting. That it is the way to help our couples feel like we get them, we see them, we see that they’re not bad. We help them stay in the process of EFT if we can reflect to them in a way that helps them feel like we believe in their good hearts. If they can trust they’re at least seen by us, they can tolerate a little longer not being seen by their partner.

It was such a privilege to watch this EFT Master at work. Thank you to Rebecca and Lieven for sharing such a jewel of a session with us.


In Session is seven sessions with seven different EFT trainers showing their work and explaining their thought process. Learn more here.


*disclaimer: I was given this course for free in exchange for my honest opinion about it.

In Session #2 with Paul Aikin – The Master of Slow Motion

Paul Aikin is in no hurry at all. He’s going to sit with you, hear those feelings, unpack a little more, and bring you back in when you exit. If you don’t share both feelings in the enactment, he’ll wait until you’re done. Then he’ll slowly bring up that other feeling you mentioned and have you bring it over. Paul is like a wide, wide river. You’ll all get to the landing place, but in the meantime, do you feel the breeze on your skin? Look, the sun is so warm today. That feels so good, doesn’t it?

In Session’s second episode featured a Stage 2 session with Paul, an EFT Trainer based in the Sacramento/Davis area of Northern California. If I thought I knew how slow EFT could be paced, I was wrong. Paul was so RISSC he might actually be related to Mister Rogers. He made the room so safe and warm with his voice. He clearly showed how to do Steps 5, 6, and 7 of Withdrawer Re-engagement and made it look so effortless, because really he was guiding them as much or more so with the tone and pacing of his voice than he was with his words.

It was wonderful to see a male EFT therapist work with a couple. Paul described his identification with the male withdrawer’s difficulty with his own vulnerability. He had such a felt empathy for when the male was talking about how he saw his vulnerability as a weakness. If you remember, in In Session a trainer and Rebecca Jorgensen watch a session with you and then they pause and talk about what they were thinking. Paul talked about how much he was relating to the withdrawer’s rejection of his vulnerability and what other interventions he also could have used in those moments.

There are two things I really want to highlight from Paul’s session that were helpful for me and I was able to use in my sessions this week.

First, he took his time with an enactment in a way I haven’t seen before. Usually when I set up an enactment, and hopefully distill and deepen enough so we’re sending a clear emotional message over to the other partner, I get a little “managey” with the enactment. I am a Pursuer, after all :). So if someone has deepened to loneliness and sadness, and just shared about the loneliness, I might jump in kind of quickly and say, “And the sadness? That you’re also so sad?”

Paul really let his client take his time sharing just the loneliness. And reflected back a little at the end of just the loneliness sharing. And then in such a slow and lovely way continued with him by asking, “Can you also go a little more into the sadness?” and continued the enactment of the client sharing his sadness with his partner. He made it seem like they had all the time in the world, and the client hadn’t done anything wrong by just sharing the loneliness at the beginning.

The second big take away for me was how much Paul understood that to this client, vulnerability felt like something weak and bad, and how much Paul validated the strength and courage it takes to go into that vulnerability. He sprinkled in validation about his client's courage all throughout the session. I tried to keep that really present in my mind this week and I feel like it created a shift in my sessions when I remembered that my clients were feeling ashamed of their vulnerability and validated how much courage it took to do what they were doing. I could feel that it held them in more secure way to validate this strength, like I had strapped them snugly into a harness and while they were leaping off little cliffs over to their partner I could say, “You’re being so brave, the harness has got you! You are so strong, you are doing it!”

I may never be able to do RISSC like Paul, but having his gentle voice in my head really helped me validate and trust the process more than I had been able to before. Thank you Paul and Becca!


In Session is seven sessions with seven different EFT trainers showing their work and explaining their thought process. Learn more here.


*disclaimer: I was given this course for free in exchange for my honest opinion about it.