Sasha Raskin, PhD Candidate, LPC. Couples and Family Therapy & Coaching Online & in Boulder, CO
Sasha Raskin, MA
Jan 19, 2022
4 min read
Making Meaning - New Book, New #1 Bestseller, and Excerpt About Couples Therapy
As a a couples therapist in Boulder, CO, and a family therapist, we don't just talk about problems all the time, we also assess and celebrate what the couple or the family were able to change for the better. Sometimes we even start a session with looking at the wins that the couple or family had since the last time we spoke. That's important because that part of our brain needs to be trained: giving ourselves the credit for creating positive change, and achieving our goals (even if it's in such an ambiguous areas such as communication or relationships), otherwise we'll just be stuck in the forever cycle of "it's never enough".
I'd like to take this opportunity and practice what I preach: celebrate. And, share an excerpt that you might find helpful.
First, celebrating the completion of a book that's a culmination of 5 years of writing. Completion, at the end of tremendous effort just feels good.
Second, the fact that so many found the book helpful that it became for a while a #1 bestseller book in "counseling books" on Amazon, and #2 bestseller in "happiness books".
And third, seeing in my author portal that people actually read the book, sometimes 500 pages total a day, makes me feel that this effort was worth it.
One of the main goals in couples counseling and family counseling is creating an efficient, consistent, massive positive change in the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we behave in our relationship.
You need to know however that even though there are many styles of marriage and family therapy, not all of them are created equal. What I mean by that is that some modalities are research based, and some are not, some are faster and some are slower in helping you create a better relationship.
That's why I believe that the best way for me to help couples and families in the most efficient and fastest way is to combine the marriage and family therapy methods that have been found scientifically effective, instead of just sticking to one that I like most.
Below you'll find an excerpt from my book that addresses how I combine the ideas of the 3 best modalities out of all the ones that I've been trained in, to improve relationships.
It is important to remember that the cycle of distress in EFT is only a map; it is not the territory. Models are helpful because they simplify reality. However, the therapy model lacks details. If you are a therapist and are in love with the model, beware; do not forget the uniqueness of the people in front of you. If you can quickly identify the cycle of pursuer and withdrawer, that’s wonderful, but remember that people are always more complex than the roles they play. Reality is always richer than a model, and it is wise to consider other factors that contribute to the negative interactions beyond unmet attachment needs.
One primary goal of EFT is to de-escalate conflict; however, John and Julie Gottman, who did a lot of their work in creating their Gottman Couples Therapy on the shoulders of EFT, took it further toward emphasizing two major secondary goals, including increasing your friendship with your partner and having less intense or negative conflicts with them . Basically, it’s important to reduce conflict, but you don’t want to end up as just a roommate with your romantic partner, you also want to have a deep romantic and friendship bond, as well as learning to fight well.
The Gottman’s brought forty years of data from scientific research on couples; they actually built a love lab where they would monitor couples’ behaviors for twenty-four hours, and even measure their bodily functions. They followed up with the couples years later. Their findings are fascinating. For example, they found out that loving couples who stayed together for years didn’t necessarily lack conflict: on average they had a ratio of five good interactions to one conflict interaction (in contrast, couples that didn’t last had a ratio of 1:1). The lesson here is that if you expect not to have conflict with your partner at all at some point, good luck with that one. Success is more about learning how to fight well.
The Gottman’s also found that they were able to predict, based on the first seven minutes of seeing the interactions, to a high level of accuracy, if the couple stayed together or not. They were looking at the presence of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This self-explanatory name is a list of signs that the couple was not really doing well: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stone-walling (ignoring on purpose).
The Gottman’s, with whom I was fortunate to train as well, brought so much scientific data to the table around the illusive subject of love that it resolved a lot of mysteries and clarified a lot of misunderstandings. They emphasized the power of the nervous system and emotional regulation, and that at some point, one or both partners can be flooded (heart rate goes above 100 bpm, oxygen levels drop below 90, etc.) and that’s where the logical parts of the brain are giving the reigns to the primitive survival system of fight-flight-or-freeze, or as Stan Tatkin puts it, the “ambassadors” go away and the “primitives” take over. The biological data helps us understand that sometimes things are simply not personal. That, in those moments of flooding, our picture is distorted by thousands of years of the need to survive. Coming back to the idea of meaning—on a biological level, in these moments when you fight with the person you love so much, you simply have only one meaning—survival.