Couples Counselling 101: How Attachment Injuries Can Hurt Your Relationship
Have you ever felt betrayed or abandoned by your partner in a moment of need? Perhaps you’ve been cheated on, lied to, or ignored when you were hurting. If so, you may have experienced an attachment injury.
What is an attachment injury?
Attachment injuries are a form of interpersonal trauma that occurs when one partner fails to provide comfort and care during a critical time, as defined by Dr Susan Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).
At Winchester Counselling, we specialise in relationship counselling and so regularly see first-hand the damage that attachment injuries can do. Shattering the trust and security of a relationship, they create a negative cycle of blame, resentment, and withdrawal - but there is hope.
The use of EFT in couples counselling
Using Emotionally Focused Therapy, couples can heal from attachment injuries and restore their emotional bond. EFT is based on the idea that romantic love is an attachment process and that partners need to feel safe, secure, and connected with each other. Through couples counselling. EFT helps each person to identify and change their negative interaction patterns and create new ones that foster intimacy and forgiveness.
The Attachment Injury Resolution Model (AIRM) is one of the key components of EFT that helps resolve attachment injuries and restore trust.
The AIRM involves four steps:
Identify the attachment injury. The first step is to recognise and name the specific event that caused the injury and how it affected both partners. The injured partner needs to express their pain, anger, and fear, while the injuring partner needs to listen empathically and validate their feelings.
Explore the impact of the injury. The second step is to understand how the injury changed the meaning of the relationship for both partners. The injured partner needs to share how they felt betrayed, abandoned, or rejected by their partner, while the injuring partner needs to acknowledge their responsibility and remorse for hurting them.
Revisit the injury with new emotional responses. The third step is to engage the injury moment with new emotional responses that show care and compassion. The injured partner needs to ask for what they needed at that time, while the injuring partner needs to offer what they failed to give before, such as comfort, support, or apology.
Restore the bond and move forward. The fourth step is to reaffirm the commitment and trust between the partners and plan for how to prevent future injuries. The injured partner needs to accept the injuring partners reparative efforts and forgive them, while the injuring partner needs to reassure the injured partner of their love and loyalty.
By following these steps, couples can heal from attachment injuries and create a stronger and more secure bond. However, this process is not easy or quick, and it requires professional guidance and support.
Could you benefit from relationship counselling?
I am Andrew Winchester, the first male counsellor in New Zealand with a Masters degree to be certified as both an Emotionally Focused Therapist and Supervisor by the International Center of Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. I specialise in helping couples overcome attachment injuries and other relationship challenges.
If you would like to explore EFT and AIRM with your partner, I invite you to book a relationship counselling session with me at Winchester Counselling.
Whether in my Christchurch office or via an online counselling session, I can help you and your partner heal from the past, reconnect in the present, and look forward to the future.