I specialize in individual and couple therapy. I have experience and training in the treatment
of mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, adjustment disorders, posttraumatic stress, and interpersonal and work related
problems. Among the many issues I treat are relationship issues, anger, chronic illness, coping with death and dying, divorce
and separation, premarital counseling, adjusting to parenthood, stress management and men's issues dealing with relationships,
accessing emotions, the transition to fatherhood, and improving honesty (to self and others), communication and connection.
I provide therapy for individuals and couples who wish to make changes in their lives and in their relationships
that are long-lasting and positive. I offer safe, compassionate and supportive counseling in an atmosphere that deepens understanding
and promotes healing. My style of therapy is active, positive, empathic and respectful of personal values and lifestyles.
In my work, I explore and validate each individual’s emotions and relational needs, and respond genuinely
I approach the therapy session as a healing place where a corrective emotional experience can happen,
and it is that process that is the method of therapeutic change.
"Without feelings as our compass in the
territory of close relationships, we are effectively lost"
kind of therapy I do with couples is based on an emotionally focused approach known as Emotionally Focused Couple
Therapy (EFT). When couples disagree, most repeat the following disruptive pattern: blame, criticize, defend, express
contempt, distance, and emotionally or physically withdraw. Distress is not about how many fights you have or even if you
resolve the fights. Distress is about how you fight, and whether you can retain some sort of emotional connection after the
fight. While traditional types of marital counseling tend to be open-ended and seek to solve immediate problems, such as continual
arguing, by focusing primarily on behavior change and communication skills, the EFT approach hones in on
increasing a couple's appreciation for how each partner feels in order to build trust and a secure base they can each rely
on. In this approach, couples learn to recognize the negative cycle they are stuck in, where one person criticizes and the
other responds defensively or withdraws. Couples learn to identify the needs and fears that keep them in that cycle. They
learn to identify and express their underlying emotions. Partners learn to empathize with each other and become more supportive
of each other. Partners come together through the emotional needs they are each expressing, and can begin to comfort each
Until a couple is able to identify, acknowledge and ultimately forgive injuries, an emotional gulf
persists between them. No matter how disatisfying things have become and how unhappy or angry partners may be, they each need
to feel safe in coming together to work out their problems. Each partner needs to understand the emotions dictating their
actions. The emotions behind perceived problems are the key to understanding each other. The focus of EFT is to help partner's
to understand more clearly each other's deepest emotions.
get to the heart of the matter!
As a certified EFT therapist, supervisor, and trainer, Sam's expertise in this model of therapy is recognized
by the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT). The primary goals of certification are
to promote excellence in the practice of EFT and to ensure maintenance of these standards in both the supervision and training
of this approach.
CLICK here to watch Dr. Sue Johnson describe her latest research study and the extraordinary results. Neuroscience research
shows evidence for the effectiveness of EFT couples therapy.
Couple Therapy is a journey that can lead
- From alienation to emotional connection.
- From vigilant defense
and self-protection, to openness and risk taking.
- From a passive helplessness in the face of the inexorable dance
of the relationship, to a sense of being able to actively create that dance.
- From desperate
blaming of the other, to a sense of how each partner makes it difficult for the other to be responsive and caring.
a focus on the other's flaws, to the discovery of one's own fears and longings.
- From stress and pain to comfort and
- But most of all, from isolation to connectedness.
After 30 years
of working with couples and researching how people repaired their relationships, Dr. Sue Johnson suddenly realized that we
had really reached a pivotal moment; all our studies, stories, and the science had come together, and we were in the midst
of a revolution—a new way of truly understanding romantic love. Finally we can grasp the laws of love—and they
have cracked the code of love and have found the pathway to the relationships we long for. You can create a fulfilling, safe-haven
relationship, restoring the romantic love bond, beginning now:
1. Abandon the out-of-date idea that love is something that just happens
All the new science tells us that romantic love is no longer a mystery. It makes perfect sense. You can learn its laws.
You have more control over this riot of emotion than you think! What you understand, you can shape. The first step is to decide
to learn about love and the new science of bonding.
2. Every day, try openly reaching out to someone and asking for their attention or affection.
Accept that you are
a mammal and that love is an ancient, wired-in survival code. You are happier, healthier, stronger, deal with stress better, and live longer when you foster your bonds with your loved ones. It is OK
to need them; they are your greatest resource. We are not designed for self-sufficiency. The strongest among us accept this
need for connection and risk reaching for others.
3. The next time you feel uncertain or worried or anxious, try just mentioning
this to your partner and taking their hand, or noticing their emotional signals and reaching for their hand.
The bonds of love
offer us a safe haven where we can take shelter and regain our emotional balance. The latest study in our lab shows that just
holding your loved one’s hand can calm your brain and shut down fear.
4. See if you can notice some times when you find openness
hard, and you become defensive or distant or shut down.
We know that emotional openness and responsiveness are the ground on which
solid, lasting bonds stand. See if you can take the initiative and share with your partner, helping him/her understand what
makes it hard to be open at this time.
5. Reflect on how you and your partner usually interact.
Can each of you reach out for the other? What do you do when the
other gets upset or does not respond to you? Do you push for contact or move away? Tell your partner one thing they could
do to help you reach for them rather than moving against or away from them.
6. Try to talk with your partner about how you impact
Both of you offer safety or danger cues that our brain takes as serious survival information; we are all vulnerable when alone. When do you arouse real joy or contentment for your partner? When do you spark distress—a sense of
being rejected or alone? Our brains code this kind of hurt in the same place and in the same way as physical pain.
7. When you get in a fight,
take a deep breath and try to see the fight as if you're a fly on the ceiling.
Often underneath the discussion of problem issues,
someone is asking for more emotional connection. See if you can get curious and pinpoint the dance; maybe it’s the typical
boogie where one pushes for contact, but the other hears criticism and steps back. See how it leaves you both feeling alone
and a little scared. Talk about that.
8. Invite your partner into more closeness once a day by playing a simple empathy game.
Each person thinks
of an event in their day. Then you take turns at reading each other’s face and trying to pinpoint whether you see one
of the six basic emotions: joy, surprise, sadness, anger, shame/embarrassment or some kind of fear. See if your guess is right.
Learning to tune in matters!
9. Take a quiet moment, tune into the emotional channel and see if you can each share with your partner what
you need most.
Keep it simple and concrete. Do you need comfort, reassurance, support, and empathy, a clear message of how important
you are to him/her? If it’s too hard to share this, share how hard it is to open up and ask.
10. Be mindful of the fact that
emotional injuries derail relationships.
You can inflict great pain on your partner simply because you matter so much—you
are the one he/she depends on. At a close moment, ask your lover if there are injuries that are unhealed, perhaps times when
you missed their cues for support and connection. Try to help them with this hurt. (It doesn’t just fade with time.)
Often just telling them that you can feel how they hurt and want to help them with it works wonders.
11. Know that the best recipe
for great sex is safe emotional connection and open communication.
Write down a short description of what your ideal lover might
do in bed and how he or she might invite you into erotic play. Give this to your partner and see what you discover about each
other. Remember, criticism literally hurts and shuts down exploration and sexuality.
12. Talk about what you learned in your family
about how to deal with emotions.
Emotions are the music of the dance lovers do; it helps if the music is clear. Then you can predict
each other’s intentions and know how to move together in harmony. Talk about the things you learned that make it hard
to listen to or share your feelings.
13. Tell each other your main goal for the next year and see if you can find one way to support
each other to reach it.
It is clear that when we know someone has our back, we are more confidant and more adventurous. We achieve
our goals more easily and are less derailed by disappointments.
14. Honor your connection. Create small rituals to recognize your bond.
Maybe it's a special
kind of kiss when you leave in the morning or a special 10-minute bonding time when you first come home. This is sacred time.
No business agendas, problem solving or distractions in the form of small electric screens are allowed.
Take love into your own hands and
hold each other tight. Read more in Dr. Sue’s Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships