Dr. Paul James Registered Psychologist Tel. 604-873-0222 | Email: info@pauljames.ca
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couples counselling vancouver

Couples Counselling Vancouver & Relationship Counselling Vancouver

Couples come to couples counselling Vancouver because they are experiencing emotion-based problems such as poor communication, conflict, emotional distance, affairs, lack of trust and intimacy, and sexual issues.

Intrusive Feelings Underlie Problems in Relationships

What underlie these emotion-based problems are intrusive feelings of fear, pain, and shame (see the article, Intrusive Feelings) that are triggered most strongly in close relationships.  Intrusive feelings are experienced originally when we are in the first few years of life in relation to our primary love object, our mothers (see the article, What We Don’t Know Can Hurt Us).  As we seek to meet our legitimate dependency needs for love and security through our new love object, the partner, these intrusive feelings are triggered again and we experience distress.  We make the mistake of blaming our partner for our distressing feelings of fear, shame, and emotional pain, and conflict ensues.  Unfortunately, the ensuing conflict compounds our distress. 

Conflict in couples occurs on two dimensions of interaction:  the affiliation dimension and the influence dimension.  The affiliation dimension refers to how couples navigate closeness and distance, often with one partner pursuing for emotional contact when intrusive feelings of anxiety and pain are triggered and the other distancing when these feelings are triggered.  The influence dimension refers to how couples share influence, often with one partner being more dominant (the dominant partner tends to define reality for both) and the other more submissive.  The more dominant partner tends to become controlling when intrusive feelings of anxiety and shame are triggered, whereas the more submissive partner tends to become compliant or passive-aggressive when these feelings are triggered.  Although generally distressed couples experience conflict on both dimensions of interaction, often they experience more conflict on one dimension than the other.

In couples counselling, I help partners understand how, although they trigger each other’s intrusive feelings resulting in conflict, they are not the cause of each other’s feelings (see the article, Responsibility for Feelings).  Rather than avoiding their intrusive feelings of fear, shame and emotional pain by blaming and trying to change the partner, I encourage them to take responsibility for their own feelings.  This involves learning to bring our presence to our own intrusive feelings with a wise, compassionate attitude, and soothing our own feelings (see the article, Listening to Feelings from a Wise Perspective).  This also involves learning to reveal our feelings responsibly to our partner and listening with compassion to our partner’s disclosure of feelings.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)

My approach to couples therapy is rooted in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT).  EFT is the most empirically validated approach to couples therapy.  I was fortunate to be trained in this approach by its primary originator, Dr. Leslie Greenberg, and to conduct an outcome study in EFT for my doctoral dissertation in the mid to late 1980s.  Since then, I have integrated elements from other therapeutic approaches such as Voice Therapy and Imago Therapy.  Most recently, I have integrated Dr. Geoffrey Carr’s theory of intrusive feelings and model of responsible communication. For a detailed description of my approach to Emotionally Focused Therapy, including a Clinical Case Study that illustrates this approach, see the link Emotionally Focused Therapy.   

"In our opinion, love is the one force that is capable of easing existential despair and the endemic pain of the human condition. We feel that to develop emotionally, as well as spiritually, one needs to learn how to love, to continue to search for love throughout life, and to remain positive, not become cynical or despairing when love fails." - Robert Firestone and Joyce Catlet

For more information on couples counselling Vancouver you can contact me at 604-873-0222 or info@pauljames.ca.