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Remembering Dr. Sue: The Legacy of Emotionally Focused Therapy, and Healing Trauma, Depression, Grief and Anxiety.

A month ago, on April 23 2024, the legendary Dr. Sue Johnson, pioneer in the counselling field, passed away.


Dr. Sue was a leader in the field of couples counselling. where she founded Emotionally Focussed Therapy. This is a form of therapy that understands that attachment styles, or the way we learnt to connect with others, comes in to play in our relationships. When we heal attachment wounds, we form healthier relationships.

Dr. Sue was also one of the first to really help the counselling field understand that emotions and processing them is paramount to healing. At the time, most professionals were just trying to get folks to think about things differently, while Dr. Sue proposed that we need to feel about them differently.


Over the years, Dr. Sue took the same model of counselling that she used for couples, and tweaked it to work with individuals (a process called Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy) and families (Emotionally Focused Family Therapy).


A photo of Dr. Sue on a zoom training, mid sentence, with her hands in motion.
Dr. Sue offering an online training on Emotionally Focussed Therapy

A lot of the we work do and the way we understand people here at WellMind is based on Sue Johnson's understanding of emotions and attachment.


So let me share with you 5 things I learnt from Dr. Johnson!


1. Attachment is Everything: Sue is all about attachment theory and how our early experiences shape how we relate to others. She was really huge in the counselling field for bringing forth the idea that if folks struggle with relationships in the present, we likely need to look back on their past and heal previous relationships to help them move forward. 


2. Feelings Rule: According to Johnson, emotions are the heart and soul of our lives and experiences. She explains that we struggle when we cannot safely experience and express our emotions. A big part of healing is experiencing trapped emotions.

 

3. Being Real is Powerful: Dr. Johnson is all about embracing vulnerability. She thinks that being open and real in our lives is what builds trust and strengthens our relationships.


4. Safe Spaces Spark Change: Her approach is all about creating a safe space for people to explore their feelings. It's within these safe spaces that real change and healing can happen. 


5. Love is a Special Bond: Johnson sees love as this deep attachment bond, similar to the bond between babies and their caregivers. She believes that nurturing this bond through emotional connection is what makes life and relationships truly fulfilling. 


What is Emotionally Focussed Therapy Used For?


Emotionally Focused Therapy is used to help individuals, couples, and families heal their attachment wounds and form healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

It is also particularly effective for addressing issues related to:


  • Couples Counselling: Helping partners reconnect, resolve conflicts, and strengthen their emotional bond.

  • Individual Therapy: Assisting individuals in understanding and processing their emotions, leading to personal growth and healing.

  • Family Therapy: Facilitating better communication and emotional connection among family members.


Any struggle that, at its root, is related to attachment wounds or unprocessed emotions, is a great fit for EFT. This includes many forms of trauma, depression, anxiety, general stress and grief work.


Dr Sue on stage. In front of her is a podium and behind her is a large screen, saying "celebrating 35 years: BC Association of Clinical Counsellors"
Dr. Sue presenting at the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors Conference in 2023

Why EFT is Great for Trauma, Anxiety, Depression, and Grief


Emotionally focused therapy is highly effective for healing trauma, anxiety, depression, and grief because it addresses the core emotional experiences underlying these conditions. By focusing on the attachment bonds and emotional patterns that shape our responses to stress and loss, EFT helps individuals process and release trapped emotions.

Think of it this way: when we undergo a traumatic event, what is often most difficult is being alone after the trauma, and not having anyone to help us process what just happened. When we feel alone, ashamed and unsupported, the trauma is harder to process. EFT works to change that by giving you a place to process the event with a caring professional.

The same holds true for depression, anxiety and grief; When we feel supported and understood, we are more likely to have the courage and energy to make changes in our life, have hard conversations and build a life that serves us.


The Take-Away


Dr. Sue Johnson was a pioneer in the field of counselling, really helping us see that attachment bonds and processing emotion is paramount to healing.


If you want to honour Dr. Sue and her legacy, take a moment to notice what you are feeling and thank you feelings for being there! 


I'm so thankful for the work Dr. Sue did to help us really heal in a transformative way.


Interested in accessing emotionally focused therapy in Kamloops or online, to help address concerns such as PTSD, trauma, depression, anxiety and grief? Reach out to our team today!

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