Brainspotting for couples brings together knowledge from Neuroscience with Steven Porges’ Polyvagal Theory which helps us understand the impact of trauma on our relationships, Attachment Theory, the Felt Sense and information we know through the work of the Gottman’s about what factors are needed to maintain and strengthen intimate relationships and Imago Relationship Dialogues.
With each couple I work with we make a plan specifically for them, I encourage couples to have an individual session before we all meet together so that they can each get a sense of how they are doing in their life as an individual, their sense of the relationship and what they would like to change, after that we meet together and we can decide to continue to meeting together or have a mixture of individual and couples sessions.
The principles of ‘Couples therapy’ can be used for close family relationships between adults, say an adult child and parent, siblings or close friends and the framework modified for colleagues or people whose need some help communicating over some difficulty. Although I use the word ‘Couple’ I also welcome people in ethical-polygamous relationships and of course couple does not mean only gender conforming folks. Intimate relationships and Family relationships are so tricky because they are ones which may well have have long term implications for our lives and touch on old attachment wounds and painful experiences, though of course this can also be true of close friendships and working relationships where we are deeply invested.
We can use Brainspotting to deepen our discussions to make decisions where there is a current sense that one person must win and one loose, when there has been trauma in past relationships which is playing out in this one, or where there has been a break of trust. Some people come with intractable problems in their relationship, other with more of a background sense that something is wrong or a constant stream of ‘niggles’ and ‘irritations’ which are causing them to no longer be able to enjoy and feel committed in the relationship.
Unlike individual therapy where problems can go on for years without getting better or worse, with couples once things have become miserable or unpleasant taking action sooner helps. With another person in the mix miserable patterns get more quickly entrenched and harder to resolve so act sooner rather than later. If your partner does not wish to come to therapy have a session for yourself. Relational problems happen in the dynamic between two people so one person making a change effects the system.
What makes Brainspotting different than other purely talking Relational approaches is we make space for our felt sense of an issue to form and let it guide the communication, which helps us to step out of the familiar dialogue which isn’t working. In our sessions together I will teach you how to slow down and have conversations where you are more likely to be able to listen your partner without being triggered and more likely to be able to express what is going on. Sometimes if we don’t slow down and listen into our felt sense we don’t know what it is we want to express ourselves, and when there is a history of trauma we might find it really hard not to be overwhelmed or numb out when there is something important to us which we long to say.
In joint Brainspotting sessions which happen when there is a sense that our partner will be able to be a supportive presence we can have our healing journey witnessed by the person who is most close to us and as witnesses we learn about our partner in a very deep way, we learn our partners individual signs of stress so that we can recognise them outside of the session and understanding our partner we may be more able to respond with graciousness rather than in self defence. If there are things which are too painful to say we can process them silently or in a separate session just for ourselves, to give ourselves all the kindness we can. Because these relationships are close they are ones which easily trigger us and so often both people are triggered at the same time, this might be to a heightened state such as ‘flight, fight or fawn’ or to a collapsed numb state or to an intensely tight frozen state, as we learn about these and gently experience them together we can learn our way our of them too. We learn how to relax with each other, be calm, have fun, play and achieve our common goals.