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Divorce Therapy

RUNNING HEAD: DIVORCE THERAPY

Divorce Therapy Using NLP and EFT


Jeanne M. Bertoli
Florida State University
August 10, 1998

ABSTRACT: Divorce occurs in approximately 50 percent of all marriages and is known to have
deleterious effects on parents and children, at least in the short-term. Divorce therapists work
with people in the divorce process to assist them in minimizing their stress and maximizing postdivorce adjustment. This chapter offers a new model for divorce therapy incorporating two
existing therapies, neither of which are traditionally used in treating divorce. This NLP-EFT
model combines the detailed assessment and visualization exercises of Neuro-Linguistic
Programming (to minimize the attachment to the ex-spouse) and the re-working of ex-spouses'
interactions through the methods of Emotionally Focused Therapy. This new model is based on
systems and attachment theories, as well as John Gottman's research on negative interaction
cycles in couples.

Divorce Therapy

DIVORCE THERAPY USING NLP AND EFT


Overview
According to 1994 census data according to the Centers for Disease Control, 2,362,000
couples married and 1,191,000 couples divorced in the United States (http:\\search.cdc.gov).
With this data, a divorce rate of 50 percent might be calculated for that year. Experts consider
this rate to be stable since the eighties (Amato & Keith, 1991; Bogolub, 1995; Cooney, 1994).
The effects of divorce have been widely reported and are generally accepted
(Furstenberg, 1990; Hetherington, 1989; Hetherington, Cox, & Cox, 1982; 1985; Seltzer, 1994;
Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). What causes the damage done to children, and how might we
intervene to minimize that damage? According to the literature, the most influential factor
affecting childrens adjustment to divorce is parental hostility. That is, when parents legally
divorce they often do not emotionally divorce. Parents often remain emotionally tied to their exspouses, expressing anger, hostility, and sometimes revenge towards this person they have loved
and lost. When parents are struggling to cope with their own issues they often find themselves
incapable of tending to the logistical and emotional needs of their children. We must find a way
to help parents deal with this struggle for the sake of themselves, their children, and all of
society.
Divorce therapists and state legislatures are facing the challenge of minimizing the effects
of divorce on families and society. Many states have adopted and are adopting laws requiring a
parent education course for all those divorcing who have children (Kramer & Washo, 1993). A
brand of therapy called divorce therapy has also evolved to help combat these issues. Divorce
therapy often begins as couples are deciding whether or not to divorce, and continues through the
separation and post-separation periods (Bogolub, 1995; Rice & Rice, 1986). Models of divorce

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therapy tend to vary according to the theoretical foundations of the practitioner. Existing models
will be explored further in the Traditional Treatment Approaches section of this paper.
Through the lens of attachment theory, divorced parents may be seen as coping with the
loss of their primary attachment object (Bogolub, 1995; Bowlby, 1969; 1988). This loss is
generally viewed as devastating whether it is the loss of a parent, a child, or a spouse. People
experiencing this loss are often overwhelmed with emotions; they may feel depression, fury,
desire for revenge, confusion, and anxiety (Bloom-Feshbach & Bloom-Feshbach, 1987; Bowlby,
1988). Addressing the need to mourn the loss of this object has been addressed in at least one
model of divorce therapy (Bloom-Feshbach & Bloom-Feshbach, 1987). The mourning
suggested by this model traditionally takes time, more time than children of divorce can afford to
relinquish.
The model proposed in this paper is new. It combines Neuro-Linguistic Programming
(NLP) and Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) in an attempt first to replace the attachment to
the ex-spouse (and thereby remove the overwhelming emotional connection) and then to reengage ex-spouses to form new interactional patterns aligned with their new roles as co-parents.
EFT is based on systems theory and attachment theory, which will be discussed below, and has
been shown to be effective in many empirical studies. NLP is not as theoretically or empirically
sound, but is based on physiology, cognitive processes, and hundreds of cases of anecdotal
evidence.
Traditional Treatment Approaches
Existing divorce therapy models can be divided into four central categories based on the
perspectives from which they were derived: (1) marital and family therapy; (2) crisis
intervention; (3) grief and bereavement; and (4) educational-supportive counseling (Rice & Rice,

Divorce Therapy

1986). Those originating from the marriage and family therapy field include models based on
psychoanalytic theory, intergenerational approaches, systems theory, and behavior theory. In
psychoanalytic theory the therapist may see the divorce as an opening through which to examine
intrapsychic characteristics that could have led to the present circumstances. With
intergenerational approaches, therapists see marital conflicts as representations of family of
origin issues. Systems theory emphasizes a way of thinking in which individual issues are less
important than dynamics between and among individuals; patterns of interactions are
emphasized. Finally, behavior theory views current problems as learned behaviors to be dealt
with through new reinforcements. It is the basis of conflict management and divorce mediation
(Rice & Rice, 1986).
Those models based on crisis intervention techniques attempt to reduce anxiety and
remove the stress-inducing triggers (e.g., court appearances, visitation issues) (Bogolub, 1995;
Rice & Rice, 1986). They use behavioral and empathy-based methods to focus on ending the
crisis. Practitioners viewing divorce from a perspective of grief and bereavement created
developmental stages of the divorce process analogous to Kubler-Ross's (1969) stages of
bereavement. They are "denial, loss, anger, reorienation, and acceptance" according to Wiseman
(1975). By viewing divorce as a developmental process, it is seen as less aberrant or deviant to
society.
The final group of traditional methods is those employing educational methods to assist
divorced adults in adjusting to their new circumstances. The many changes engendered in
divorce necessitate learning new roles and skills. These therapists help divorced people gain
confidence in their ability to handle their new environment (Bogolub, 1995; Rice & Rice, 1986).
The most common course of treatment for divorcing parents is a psychoeducational

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course to help parents understand what children go through when parents divorce (Kramer &
Washo, 1993). Although these courses are offered widely and are even required by some states,
their effectiveness has been called into question (Braver, 1996). Each program contains a
different curriculum lasting a different length of time. Most parents are forced to be present, and
so often resist the process. Others take advantage of the opportunity which mostly encourages
parents to look at divorce through the eyes of their children, to see their needs and feelings. With
this new perspective, the goal is that parents will be motivated to put their anger aside for the
sake of their children. Although these ideas seem admirable, evidence of those ideas becoming
reality remains weak (Braver, 1996).
Cognitive-behavioral approaches, like psycho-educational models, do not directly address
or deal with parental anger other than to ask what would be needed to transcend those feelings
(Kramer & Washo, 1993). By trying only to circumvent the anger, already overwhelmed parents
may feel more guilty, ashamed, and incapable (Bloom-Feshbach & Bloom-Feshbach, 1987).
One type of divorce therapy model does address parents anger/hostility, which is viewed
as the loss of a primary attachment object. Practitioners of this therapy warn that extensive time
may be required to allow the client to grieve the loss (Bloom-Feshbach & Bloom-Feshbach,
1987). Unfortunately, children do not realistically have time to wait months and years for their
parents to mourn. By that time, battle lines may have already been drawn, damage may already
have been done.
There seems to be no consensus regarding which method of divorce therapy is most
effective. Whether short-term stress-reducing techniques or longer-term approaches aimed
toward the re-working of intrapsychic and interpersonal organization are the "correct" methods
seems left to the individual practitioner.

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This Model - NLP-EFT


The literature consistently states that conflict/hostility between parents after divorce
contributes more than any other factor to a decline in parents and childrens well-being postdivorce (Amato & Keith, 1991). Traditional divorce therapy models have not found a way to
address this factor quickly and effectively. This new model (NLP-EFT) offers a two-component
therapy based on NLP and EFT, specifically tailored to divorcing or divorced families.
Centrally focused on attachment theory, the problem is viewed as follows: Divorce leads
to parental hostility because of the loss of the primary attachment object (usually for at least one
parent). This hostility becomes present as parents: speak badly of their former spouse to their
children; send messages to their former spouse through their children (e.g., to demand money or
be critical of some lifestyle or habit); or seek vengeance through actions like withholding
visitation rights or not allowing children the freedom to call the noncustodial parent. These are
just a few examples of the innumerable stories children tell by the hundreds. This hostility
damages children of divorce; the evidence is clear.
NLP-EFT divorce therapy proposes to deal with and minimize this hostility by: (1)
acknowledging the normality of feelings of anger and hostility due to the removal of the primary
attachment object, (2) using NLP to remove the attachment to the ex-spouse, and (3) using EFT
to restructure the parents interactions based on their new relationship and attachments. This
model, uses a constructivist philosophy and systems and attachment theory to conceptualize a
solution.
NLP-EFT is not appropriate for couples where violence has eroded the possibility of
feeling physically safe in the presence of the offender. Many people feel anger or fury but do not
act on those feelings; these people may still be appropriate clients for this therapy. This model is

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predicated upon non-abusive parents who want to be in their childrens lives. Since the model
has just been created, no empirical evidence of its effectiveness in total is available at this time.
Effectiveness of each component is addressed within their individual descriptions. Now NLP
and EFT will each be described in detail; then a case example follows.
NLP
Neuro linguistic programming was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the
1970s as a way to help people have what they wanted in their lives through hypnosis and special
communication skills. They based this technique on the masterful skills they observed in three
therapists: Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson, and Fritz Perls. From speaking to and observing
these three, Bandler and Grinder extrapolated characteristics which made these practitioners so
successful. Some of these characteristics included their way of speaking gently and methodically
and matching the clients mode of speech, as well as specific uses of language including
reframing problems into possibilities. NLP combines a hypnotic use of language using specifics
of the client's story (i.e., a tendency towards visual, audio, or kinesthetic terms) for its basis.
After a session of discussing the issue, the therapist creates a visualization script based on
Erickson's hypnotic techniques and Satir's empathetic way of communicating to expand the
choices currently available in the client's unconscious. As Linden (in 1997) said, It offers a
paradigm of how the brain works (neuro), about how language interacts with the brain
(linguistic), and how we use this interaction to get the results we want for ourselves and others
(programming).
NLP sees all problems as rooted to a limited amount of choices in the unconscious.
When clients have more choices, they are assumed to choose ones which are more effective for
themselves. These limited choices are rooted in childhood where they faced some similar

Divorce Therapy

dilemma and had access to few, severely limited options. At that time an option was chosen
which allowed survival, but it is no longer functional in the present day.
In short, NLP therapists goals are to understand a persons subjective experience, by
learning how the person has internally represented the information, and to help him/her change
that experience to one that will be more effective in his/her life. After an understanding about
the internal representation is acquired by the therapist through the consultation phase, the
therapist guides the client through a visualization process by which new images or metaphors
replace olds ones which are no longer working for the client. Other NLP processes, which are
beyond the scope of this paper, may be done by the client himself/herself.
Underlying theories and assumptions. Theories and assumptions upon which NLP is
based are not directly stated by the founders. Others have noted that this model is based upon
Freuds concept of the unconscious mind and Milton Ericksons hypnotherapy, and the
philosophical framework is clearly constructivist in this authors opinion. Beyond these
concepts, basic assumptions expressed by NLP practitioner Peter Wryckza (Linden, 1997)
include: (1) mind and body are part of the same cybernetic system (assumes systems theory), (2)
every behavior serves a positive intention, (3) all behavior is useful in some context, (4) all the
resources we need are inherent to our own physiology, (5) human interaction is systemic in
nature, (6) the meaning of my communication to another is reflected in the response it elicits, (7)
theres no failure, only feedback, (3) if it is possible for someone, it is possible for me, and (9)
since my experience is mediated through my own body/mind, I create my own experience and I
am responsible for what happens to me.
Criticisms. NLP has its critics who have commented that this process motivates people
to take control of their lives through practical skills using communication and behavior

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modification. Critics also say that the bases for this therapy, namely the unconscious mind and
hypnosis, have not been empirically established. Even the critics, however, have not denied that
NLP works. As one critic sums it up,
It seems that NLP develops models which cant be verified, from which it develops
techniques which may have nothing to do with either the models or the sources of the
models. And it makes claims about thinking and perception which do not seem to be
supported by neuroscience. This is not to say that the techniques wont work. They may
work and work quite well, but there is no way to know whether or not the claims behind
their origin are valid. Perhaps it doesnt matter.
Empirical evidence. All evidence of NLPs effectiveness appears to be anecdotal and
from testimonies. Cases are reported throughout NLP literature (Andreas & Andreas, 1989).
NLP has been used in psychotherapy for problems ranging from phobias to schizophrenia, and
has been expanded outside the field of psychotherapy into the business and academic worlds.
Its continued expansion and popularity, as well, speak to some level of effectiveness.
Application of NLP to divorce therapy. When using NLP to treat divorce-related issues,
the therapist works with attachment issues and the related emotions. In other contexts this same
procedure might also be used on those struggling with issues of enmeshment or co-dependence.
When people divorce, generally one or both parents is grieving the loss of their primary
attachment object. Those feeling of attachment to or dependence on another person are often
internalized as being physically connected to that person, by a cord or like a tumor or some other
representation. The thought of disconnecting from the object creates anxiety in the person as
he/she fears being abandoned. Using NLP techniques, the therapist helps the client emotionally
detach from the old object and reattach that connection to himself/herself.

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The NLP process allows the person to disconnect safely from the current object, identify
the needs he/she was meeting, create a more evolved self, attach to the new self, respect the
object, and elaborate on the new relationship with self (Andreas & Andreas, 1989). It is
important to emphasize here that this procedure is not magic but positive anecdotal evidence has
suggested that it allows people emotional distance from the original object, thereby allowing the
client to feel more in control and able to choose the options more closely aligned with their
values.
EFT
History. Greenberg and Johnson (1988) found that cognitive-behavioral and other forms
of marital therapy seemed to be missing something. That something was dealing with peoples
emotions. They posit that our emotional experiences are the essence of our experience and must
be dealt with in order for a marital therapy to be effective long-term.
Assumptions and theoretical principles. EFT founders state their assumptions and
principles explicitly throughout articles on the subject. The model comes from a constructivist
perspective using attachment theory, systems theory, and the results of Gottmans research on
marital distress to implement experiential techniques aimed at restructuring couples interactions.
A brief discussion of each of these components follows.
Attachment theory. First as children and again as adults, people seek to feel safe in the
world by having someone to whom they are the most important thing in the world, called a
primary attachment object (Bowlby, 1969). The bond created with the attachment object serves
to regulate closeness to the object and creates working models of the objects dependability and
whether the self is worthy and lovable (Johnson, in press). The bond between people in this type
of relationship has been shown to maximize physical and mental health, resilience, adaptability,

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and personality development in those involved (Willis, 1991; Burman & Margolin, 1992).
When an attachment object is perceived as inaccessible or unresponsive, the person
responds with anger, anxiety, fear, and sadness and will seek to reestablish the connection
(Bowlby, 1988). Bowlby suggests that typically protest and anger will be the first response to
such a threat, followed by some form of clinging and seeking, which then gives way to despair
and depression and finally, if the attachment figure does not respond, to detachment and
separation (Johnson, in press).
Systems theory. As posited by the authors of this model, systems theory explains why
people get entangled in and appear unable to release themselves from interactional patterns.
Systems theory sees patterns as becoming organized over time and maintaining themselves
through homeostasis (Steinglass, 1987). Further, partners appear controlled by their partner.
Systems theory does not address, according to the authors, issues concerning motivation and the
internal dynamics of the person (Johnson & Greenberg, 1995).
The interactions of the couple are also seen as systemic. Neither person is seen as right
or wrong or good or bad. No one causes the problem; the negative cycle is the problem
trap in which they both get caught.
Gottmans research on marital distress. John Gottmans (1979; 1991) research found that
negative interaction cycles, and the concomitant inability to remain emotionally engaged, cause
separation and divorce. Couples engage in typical patterns of one partner becoming critical
while the other withdraws (aka pursuer-distancer). If this pattern escalates to either an attackattack or withdraw-withdraw cycle, the marriage will eventually end. Gottman (1991) says that
couples must retain the ability to be emotionally engaged with each other in order to work
through issues for a marriage to be successful.

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Experiential techniques. Instead of counting on insight to create lasting change in


relationships, Johnson and Greenberg (1992; 1995) emphasize the need for couples to experience
that change in the therapy room. Couples need to take chances in the safe environment created
by the therapist and know that they will be guided through first efforts. Couples also know that
an unbiased third person is there to guide them.
Major concepts. Greenberg and Johnson state that couples negative interaction cycles
result from feeling a fear of losing their primary attachment object. Because of this fear, couples
often become entangled in ineffective ways of communicating like withdrawal or attack or being
overly rational or discounting the partners concerns or criticizing. To move couples away from
these cycles, which are the cause divorce according to Gottman (1991; 1994), EFT offers a
model of therapy which leads couples through a process of: (1)identifying their own core
emotions, (2) communicating those emotions (thereby letting go of the less effective ways of
communicating), (3) understanding and taking responsibility for how their communication
evokes responses in their partner (like anger or withdrawal), and (4) restructuring their
interactions to be more genuine and vulnerable because of the renewed safety of the relationship.
EFT emphasizes that people entering therapy feel a loss of trust and connection with their
partners. Therapy aims to create or recreate the accessibility and responsiveness which engender
a safe environment in which both partners are able to express their attachment needs (Johnson &
Greenberg, 1988). Emotions are viewed as the window into peoples internal world of
attachment and models of self.
Empirical evidence. EFT has been studied extensively and is viewed as one of the most
effective therapies for treating marital distress (Alexander et al., 1994; Dunn & Schwebel, 1995,
including a study testing the creators hypothesis of how change occurs (Johnson & Greenberg,

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1988). Once shown to work, EFT has been used to treat other issues present in marriages such as
depression, alcoholism, chronic physical illness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Johnson, in
press). This empirical evidence has shown EFT as more effective than no treatment and some
current cognitive-behavioral methods of marital therapy.
Specific treatment procedures. Overall, Greenberg and Johnson propose two goals of
therapy: accessing and reprocessing emotional experience and restructuring the couples
interactions (Greenberg & Johnson, 1988; Johnson, in press). They created a 9-step process by
which EFT could be implemented and wrote a manual entitled Emotionally Focused Therapy in
1988. The steps are as follows:
1. The delineating of conflict issues in the core struggle.
2. Identifying the negative interaction cycle.
3. Accessing the unacknowledged feelings underlying interactional positions.
4. Reframing the problem in terms of underlying feelings attachment needs, and negative cycles.
5. Promoting identification with disowned needs and aspects of self, and integrating these into
relationship interactions.
6. Promoting acceptance of the partners experience and new interaction patterns.
7. Facilitating the expression of needs and wants, and creating emotional engagement.
8. Facilitating the emergence of new solutions.
9. Consolidating new positions.
Although a detailed explanation of each step is not possible here given space
considerations, an overall description of the process is as follows. The therapist begins by
establishing a strong therapeutic alliance. Because EFT necessitates the exploration of clients
core emotions, they must feel safety and trust that they will be treated respectfully and fairly

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(Johnson & Greenberg, 1995). The clients are then guided to discuss some of their issues while
the practitioner notes the interaction cycles, particularly those of pursuer/distancer and
anger/withdrawal. As clients continue their discussions the therapist facilitates a transition to
discussing the underlying issues related to attachment, often asking about feelings of
abandonement or rejection and the history of those feelings.
In describing the cycle to the clients the therapist validates each persons experience and
emphasizes how they unintentionally created the cycle and are currently trapped by it. The most
significant parts of the therapy are when each partner can communicate their underlying
emotional issue (e.g., I feel like you do not need me anymore and will leave me if you become
successful at work) rather than discussing the event (e.g., I cant stand how much time you
spend at work). When one person relinquishes their defenses and speaks from their emotional
core, the other person usually increases their barriers in a fearful attempt to re-establish
homeostasis in the system. (Note that the originally angry partner is usually mistrusting of the
changes in the originally withdrawn partner and may not respond encouragingly. This is normal
as he/she is scared to trust this person who has continually withdrawn from him/her.) Clients
and the therapist must stay present and continue to delineate the core emotions and interactions
from the dialogue while the therapist encourages and validates couples interactions at that depth.
Eventually clients are able to acknowledge their needs and express them to their partners.
Once couples begin to communicate in this manner, new folutions naturally emerge to old
problems. The final step involves solidifying the new roles in couples interactions. EFT does
not follow the nine steps in a linear fashion but rather in a corkscrew-type shape, with steps
repeated as necessary.
Application of EFT to divorce therapy. Johnson and Greenberg (1995) actually

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recommend this therapy not be used for separating couples since the therapy in its current form
aims to make the primary attachment more secure. Johnson (in press) states, however, that,
EFT works best for couples who still have some emotional investment in their relationship and
therefore some willingness to really engage in the therapy process (p. 12). In this light, EFT
may be considered for divorced couples in that they will always have an investment in each
others lives due to their children. In NLP-EFT, EFT will be modified slightly to offer divorcing
couples a process by which they might create a new, more superficial level of attachment that is
safe.
Since EFT is normally conducted with people who seek to maintain or reestablish
primary attachment with each other, couples are seen together. During therapy each person is
asked to become extremely vulnerable as they express their underlying fears about themselves as
well as their emotions. This level of vulnerability is not necessary for divorced couples. The
goal of this therapy is to establish trust between the parents regarding the children and mutual
respect among all.
EFT with divorced couples differs from the traditional model in the following ways.
Firstly each adult is seen separately for approximately three sessions. During these sessions the
therapist leads each person to identify his/her underlying emotions, to see the interactional
pattern between each other, and to acknowledge and take responsibility for his/her part in the
pattern and the emotions he/she evokes in the other person.
After seeing the parents together for four to six sessions at two-week intervals, the
children are brought into therapy for two to three sessions. Here the parents express and allow
the children to experience their new way of interacting. The purpose is for the children to hear
from their parents together and to see consistency between their words and actions. The other

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purpose is that the children are able to express their feelings and concerns to their parents.
Further therapy is made available but not considered necessary.
Case Example
Tim and Sue, both 38, have been married for 10 years and have recently divorced. They
have two children, John (8 years-old) and Sara (5 years-old). The couple was awarded joint legal
custody, while Sue retains primary residence. Tim was ordered to pay $800 per month in child
support. Sue initiated the divorce against Tims objections. Tim wanted the couple to pursue
counseling to try to save the marriage, but Sue said it was too late. Since the divorce Tim has
been very hostile towards Sue. Incidents include Tim telling the children that their mother had
broken up their home and that she was never really committed to the marriage, that she was just
using him. Tim also told the children that Sue had left him so the children should not be
surprised if she left them too. He was also sending messages to Sue through the children telling
her that she better not buy anything for herself with the child support he sent and that no other
man would want to go out with her as fat as she was. John began doing poorly in school, his
grades declining from Bs to Ds, and he had gotten in a fight on the school playground. Sara
started sucking her thumb and not wanting to leave her mothers side. She did not want to visit
her father. Sue realized that the family was in trouble and sought divorce therapy with a clinic
using the X model. Tim agreed to attend sessions without Sue present for his children and
because he was beginning to have problems at work related to his temper.
The first and most important part of therapy with this model is the therapeutic alliance.
Families must be comfortable with and trust that the therapist has their best interest in mind and
would not do anything harmful. Therapists see the parents separately for the initial consultation,
NLP, and initially in EFT. Therapy with the children is not discussed in this model.

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While NLP would be conducted with Sue to diminish any anger or residual attachment
issues she might have with Tim, Tim is the primary parent needing to re-work his attachment to
his ex-spouse. The session with Tim presented below was his second session. The first was
used as a consultation and bonding session. To begin the session, Tim was asked to do some
breathing exercises to relax and sit in a reclining chair as the therapist guided him through the
following process. For the sake of time and space the session is presented as a monologue. The
actual pace of the session is usually slow and deliberate, allowing for flexibility to each clients
needs. The entire process takes approximately 20 minutes.
TH: Tim I want you to imagine that Sue has just walked in the room. If you have trouble seeing that, pretend that
she just walked in. Now see yourself walking up to her and then walking around her. I want you to notice
everything about her. What does she smell like? feel like? Now tune in to your feelings. What does it feel like to
be around her? Do you feel very connected to her? How do you experience your connection to Sue? Do you
experience yourself as physically attached to her in some way? Are you physically attached to some part of her
body or is there some object that connects you? Where on her body is the connection, and where is it on your body?
Notice how you experience this. How does it look? What does it feel like? How do you feel?
This step allowed the client to become aware of is over-connection to his ex-wife.
TH: Now think for a moment about breaking the connection just to know how it would be for you. You might do
this with a saw or some other sharp object. Sever the connection now. Most people find this very uncomfortable
which shows you that this connection was very important to you and served a significant purpose in your life. If you
are uncomfortable, put the connection back. It is not time for you to end it yet; you arent ready until you have
something to replace it with.
This step allowed Tim to experience temporary independence, which would make him greatly uncomfortable given
that his paradigm is that he is very attached to Sue.
TH: Now ask yourself what you want from Sue that would satisfy you. What do you want from her? What would
that do for you? What are you looking for from her? Keep asking yourself until you reach a core answer like
protection, love, security, or a feeling of value.
Therapist would continue these kinds of questions until the client signaled that he had found an answer. The
purpose of this is to help the client find the positive aspects of this attachment, what he was getting out of having the
attachment.
TH: Now turn 90 degrees either to your right or left. I want you to create a three-dimensional image of yourself as
you would ideally like to be. This is you beyond your current level of functioning. This Tim knows you and loves
you. This Tim appreciates you and wants to nurture and protect you. This Tim can provide you with all the needs
you have just identified. Get a sense of what he is like. Notice how he looks, how he feels, how you feel around
him. Does he glow? Do you feel his warmth?
Some people do not actually see this other self but get a sense of him instead. This step is called developing the
evolved self.
TH: Turn around and see Sue. See and feel your connection to her. Now cut the connection with her and

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immediately connect to your new self in the same way you were to Sue. Notice how wonderful it feels to be
connected to someone you can count on, someone in whom you can place all of your trust. This person will never
let you down. Enjoy receiving from yourself what you had wanted from the other person.
This step transforms the connection to the other into a connection with the self.
TH: Now look back at Sue and see the severed connection. Take her cord and reattach it to another part of her. If
there was no cord see her connecting to a more evolved version of herself like you now are. Notice that this person
is better off now just as you are. Feel how you are more able to be with her now. You now feel happy and peaceful
with yourself and wish her well.
With this step the purpose is to feel respect for the attachment object, to be able to engage more fully and in a
relaxed manner with that person, not to be emotionally reactive to her. This will allow Tim to deal with Sue more
productively than was previously possible.
The final two steps in the process extrapolate on the new connection with the evolved self and go into the
future to experience the new sense of security and resourcefulness in different situations. This solidifies the new
attachment.
* Note that this procedure was modified from Chapter 3 in Heart of the Mind entitled Becoming More Independent
in Relationships.

Once NLP was complete for both Tim and Sue, appointments were set up for each of
them three weeks later. This lapse serves to have them both adjust to their new experience of
themselves and each other. During the first sessions after NLP both Tim and Sue expressed a
big relief in the level of anger and hostility between them. Both stated that although they were
still frustrated with each other and not really solving their issues together, they were more able to
talk. Inevitably, however, their discussions ended with Sue getting angry and Tim hanging up on
her. This pattern of interaction mimicked their pattern in the marriage. Now that the level of
hostility had decreased the therapist could work to change the interactions.
EFT began with seeing the couple separately. The therapist assisted each of them in
identifying their underlying emotions and understanding the parts each played in the interactions
with the other. Sue came to see that her anger toward Tim was based on her fear that he would
emotionally leave the children as she felt he had left her. Tim saw that his withdrawal from Sue
as well as his inconsistency with the children centered around his fear that his children, like his
ex-wife, would abandon him. Both Tim and Sue were able to see how their communication
evoked the opposite of the desired response from the other. After repeatedly drawing out these
feelings and patterns both Tim and Sue felt ready to meet together. A piece of that session
appears below.
TH: So why dont we begin this discussion by having the two of you discuss a normal issue that arises in your coparenting situation. Tim, is there an issue that comes to your mind? [Therapist begins with Tim since he is the
partner that traditionally withdraws.]
TIM: Okay. A usual issue for us to deal with is when I want to see the kids when it is not a regularly scheduled
day. That usually ends up in a big fight. As a matter of fact we got in a big fight because I am interested in taking
them to an amusement park a week from Friday.
TH: Okay. Is this conversation acceptable to you Sue?
SUE: Yes its fine.
TH: Okay why dont the two of you have that discussion, beginning with Tim. Please remember your goals here.

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And I will be involved in the discussion as well, helping each of you process the information just like in the other
sessions. Remember to focus on your underlying feelings. What happened in the fight?
TIM: All right. I dont understand what the problem is. I want to take the kids to have a great day and its a
problem. I honestly dont get it.
SUE: The kids are in summer day camp right now and you just expect them not to go to that when Im paying for
that. Why cant you take them on one of your normal days? It makes me so mad when you try to rearrange our
schedules and our lives. You know youre not the only one who matters here.
TH: Okay Sue, tell me how you feel when you say all that? You sound angry. Can you tell me what the anger is
about?
SUE: You know were divorced now and I dont want him trying to control our lives anymore. Theres a reason
this relationship is over.
TH: And what is that reason?
SUE: Tim cannot be counted on. Im sorry but its true.
TH: So it sounds like you are afraid that the children cant count on Tim any more than you felt you could. [focus
on underlying feelings]
SUE: Yes, thats it (begins crying). I dont want them to go through what I went through. And Tim has been so
erratic with them and been telling them lies and telling them too much about adult issues. I dont feel like I can trust
him. Hes been mostly hurting them in the last year.
TH: Okay so you didnt feel like you could count on Tim during the marriage and that left you sad and lonely,
scared of losing him. [re-focus on feelings]
SUE: Yes, yes.
TH: And now that youre no longer married to him and you have some distance from that, you are still frightened
that the children will not be able to rely on him? And you feel that there has been some evidence in the past year
that your concerns are legitimate?
SUE: Exactly.
TIM: I understand your concerns. Ive done some horrible things in the past year, and I am very sorry for that. I
have been trying to make it up to the kids in the past 3 weeks and want to continue that. Thats one of the reasons I
want to take them to the park. Youre going to have to start trusting me. Theyre not just your kids. I have a right
to see them too, and not just when its convenient for you. You dont have the power over my relationship with
them. [Tim would not have been able to stay calm and take responsibility for his actions had it not been for NLP.
Since Sue is not longer his primary object of attachment he can interact with her on a less emotional and more
rational manner.]
TH: Tim you speak about events of the past year and Sue mentioned that you might have been erratic with the
children. Can you tell me about that?
TIM: Well I have been hours late to pick them up sometimes and sometimes not shown up at all. They really
havent been able to count on me.
TH: Can you please explain what you were feeling during those times?
TIM: Fear. I dont know why, but they actually scare me.

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TH: What do you think you were afraid of given that you had just lost your wife?
TIM: Well I guess.. no.. Maybe I was afraid that they would leave me too. Yeah I guess theres part of me thats
really scared that theyll leave me like Sue did. It scares the hell out of me. I actually feel like I want to run away
just thinking about it.
TH: Okay so you see that some of the reason you were acting erratically with the kids was because you were scared
they would leave you. How are you dealing with those feelings now?
TIM: Actually its not nearly as bad as it used to be. I dont feel nearly as insecure about it. Im really able to have
more fun with them in the last 3 weeks and not be so paranoid.
TH: So you feel like you have more control and are able to make better choices than you did in the months
following the divorce?
TIM: Yeah thats a good way of putting it. I feel like Im not so crazed with anger and jealousy. Im making much
better decisions for myself and for the kids. I know Ive got a lot of making up to do.
SUE: Yes you do. Im glad to see you realizing that. You did a lot of damage to them (angry tone of voice).
TH: So Sue youre still feeling angry, is that still about wanting the kids to be able to count on him?
SUE: Yeah (calmer), I guess so. Even though I have seen some changes in him in the past few weeks, Im really
scared of them getting hurt. Bad enough it happened to me as an adult. They just dont deserve it. Im so scared for
them. [Sue is holding on to the anger and not quite ready to trust Tims shift. This is normal; she will eventually
soften as these kinds of discussions continue.]
TH: Sue, focusing on the best interest of the children, can you ask Tim for what you would need to be able to begin
trusting him again? [reminds Sue of her goal and moves her forward to one of her goals]
SUE: (looking at Tim and thinking) You know, Im not sure. I think (in a softer tone of voice) what I need is to see
you being consistent with the children. Would you consider making an effort at doing that? [Here Sue has softened
significantly. She seemed realize she needed to give him a chance to prove himself to the kids and her].
They debate what that effort would look like and other logistics. At the end of the session the therapist
warns the clients that their struggles will not suddenly end, to expect themselves to sometimes slip into their old
pattern of interacting. They developed those patterns over years and they would not be eradicated in a weeks time.

Conclusion
With over a million divorces each year and the level of hostility between parents
continuing after divorce, clinicians are being called upon to treat divorced and divorcing
families. Traditional methods of divorce therapy have used techniques that follow specific
theories. Hostility between parents has yet to be dealt with quickly and effectively in these
models. This hostility often dominates those divorcing or recently divorced and interferes with
parents making decisions that are in their childrens best interest. A new model has been offered
in this chapter which combines NLP and EFT.

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Using an NLP technique, attachment to the ex-spouse would be substituted with


attachment to a higher self or higher power. Dealing with hostility in this manner should
diminish the overwhelming sense of loss and allow the parents to make more appropriate
decisions regarding co-parenting. Upon completion of NLP, EFT focuses on re-working the
dynamics of the interactions between the parents. The goal is to have parents communicate their
underlying meanings rather than the specifics of any problem, thereby having more positive
interactions. For example an ex-husband might be encouraged to tell his ex-wife that he is
scared that if she remarries that the children will not need him anymore, rather than demanding
that it is inappropriate for her to bring men into her home in front of their children.
This combination of therapies seems likely to deal effectively with the emotions and
restructuring necessary for functional post-divorce relationships. Studies must be conducted to
show the effectiveness of these treatments together.

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