Paul Sigafus, LMFT offers individual supervision for therapists at Colorado Counseling Center who are pursuing certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy. “EFT supervision” is provided as professional peer consultation for the purpose of supporting therapists in learning the EFT model, not as clinical supervision overseeing any specific cases. A therapist who consults with Paul Sigafus, LMFT retains full and sole ethical and legal responsibility for all therapy services provided to his or her clients.
Paul Sigafus’ Approach to EFT Supervision:
I believe that every human being is an unrepeatable miracle, worthy of love and connection. I also know that it is only in the embrace of loving bonds that each person can reach his or her greatest fulfillment and potential. Likewise, the absence of secure connection carries proportional power to diminish both joy and capacity, replacing them with fear, insecurity, and loneliness. These humanistic values combine with an attachment-informed systemic focus to provide the foundation my work as an EFT Supervisor.
Acknowledging Complexity & Creating Safety
Although the principles of EFT resonate powerfully with many therapists, the process of learning EFT requires continuous growth. There are so many learning curves that require time to integrate and master: understanding the steps and stages; learning how to create an alliance; conducting an appropriately thorough assessments; learning how to access primary emotion in the present process; learning how to structure effective enactments and how to use evocative responses, empathic validation, conjectures, and other EFT interventions; learning how to deal with affairs, addictions, and trauma; learning how to conduct an attachment history; and understanding how our own histories and sensitivities influence our ability to connect with our clients.
Confronted with this worthy but complex task, I’ve found that many therapists can feel vulnerable and overwhelmed. In my supervision, I try to create a very safe, supportive environment by acknowledging the complexity of the model while encouraging therapists’ gentle and persistent ongoing work with themselves in learning the model. I find that I do my best work as a supervisor when I allow myself to be very emotionally present — aligning my own internal state with what the therapist is feeling about his or her work with couples. When I bring this empathic resonance to my supervision, it helps to create a safe haven where the therapist can learn more effectively.
Developmental Awareness & Respect for Individuality
As I endeavor to establish a strong working alliance with a therapist, I am also mindful of the therapist’s experience/developmental level as a clinician, their level of training in the EFT model, their past experiences with supervision, their views on their strengths and weaknesses in their clinical work, and their goals for the supervisory experience. While supporting each therapist in learning EFT, I also value the therapist’s individuality; I believe that while we are bound by a common commitment to helping couples establish secure emotional bonds, the model is also delivered through the unique person of the therapist.
Attention to the Self-of-the-Therapist
Although I am not “doing therapy” with those whom I supervise, there are some similarities between my therapeutic work with clients and my supervision. For example:
- When applicable, I explore with therapists what barriers might cause them to lose empathic attunement with their clients’ experiences; e.g., “When do you find yourself bored/frustrated/anxious with these clients?” (exploring triggers/cues)
- I ask therapists about their internal experience of working with specific clients; e.g., “What is that like for you, on the inside?” or, “Help me understand what you are going through when your clients (behave in a certain way).”
- At times I explore with a therapist how their own internal working models might be impeding their work with clients; their views of self and others.
- Working with present process in the supervision session, I try to help therapists connect their own primary emotions, needs, and vulnerabilities to their action tendencies with clients.
- I support therapists in understanding clients’ reactive behaviors as attachment styles and strategies gone awry, rather than seeing them as evidence of character flaws.
In these ways, I try to model both personal empathic responsiveness as well as a process whereby the therapist can better help their clients connect to primary emotion.
Teaching & Modeling Empathic Responsiveness
In my experience thus far as a supervisor, helping therapists learn how to “be with people” in an empathic and responsive way is fundamental to their success in learning EFT. To the degree that empathic responsiveness is lacking in a therapist’s approach, I’ve found that therapists can over-focus on the mechanics of the EFT process, thus becoming an EFT “technician.” When this is true, I’ve observed that a therapist can find it very difficult to tap into their clients’ primary emotions and attachment needs. In these circumstances, I might review video with a therapist, and have them practice stepping away from technique, and focus on hearing their clients with their heart, bringing their full empathic resonance to their clients’ experiences.
Clear Conceptualizations of EFT Process & Techniques
As I help therapists learn how to attune more deeply to their clients’ emotions, they experience more success in bringing their clients into contact with primary emotions, felt in the moment. As I follow up in subsequent supervision sessions, therapists note that their increased empathic responsiveness facilitates their ability to help clients share from an emotionally engaged place.
I try to give clear conceptualizations of EFT structure, processes, and interventions while reviewing video tapes. For example, I might model how to:
- Identify cues/triggers that activate attachment fears
- Explore cognitive appraisals
- Explore/validate secondary emotions in an attachment frame
- Identify and access primary emotions / needs in the present process
- Structure/shape an enactment
After explaining the concepts and demonstrating/giving examples, I will often invite the therapist to practice doing the same. These role-plays seem to help the therapist integrate an understanding of EFT interventions and steps with a felt experience of moving through the process. Furthermore, I might model and have a therapist practice using various EFT techniques and interventions; e.g., RISSSC, heightening, conjectures, etc.
Encouragement & Evaluation of Progress
As I observe videos of a therapist’s work, I am attentive to moments when he or she does something well, and I strive to give specific, positive feedback. As one of my mentors taught me, it is important to “paint the walls” with the successes of those whom I supervise. For example, I might comment, “That moment when you leaned into your client’s primary emotion was really powerful; when you softly repeated his fear of losing his wife, it helped to heighten his awareness of his attachment needs.” I then might ask the therapist how they experienced that moment. After giving this type of support or encouragement, I will sometimes offer a suggestion on how to use that success as a platform to move the process forward; e.g., helping the therapist shape an enactment using present primary emotions.
In addition to giving specific feedback in a supervision session, I also strive to give accurate appraisals of the therapist’s overall progress in learning and applying the model. For example, I might praise a therapist’s ability in facilitating de-escalation/Stage 1 work with a couple, and then encourage the therapist to read about deepening client’s intrapsychic awareness through Step 5 work. I then follow up with the therapist in subsequent supervision sessions. This process creates a coherent narrative of the therapist’s development, and can help the therapist know where to focus his or her efforts.
“Paul has an exquisite capacity for attunement with his supervisees, and a very integrated understanding of the EFT process model and theory. He is able to compassionately guide his supervises into understanding themselves better in the process of implementing the model with their clients…. Paul has been in the EFT world for quite some time and has an immense amount of therapeutic wisdom and knowledge.” – Michael Barnett, LPC, Director of the Atlanta Center for EFT, Certified EFT Supervisor and Trainer