Emotionally Focused Family Therapy training event

I’m delighted to announced that Wendy Gage and I are coordinating an Emotionally Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) training event for two days in June.

Here are some details…

Trainer:  Gail PalmerGail PalmerGail Palmer is a well-known and respected trainer in the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) community.  She is the primary trainer for both couple and family therapists in Ontario.  She also trains therapists internationally.  Gail is also Sue Johnson’s (author of Hold Me Tight and Love Sense) right-hand person in The Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT).

Location:  Leonard Hall @ Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, 5 Hoskin Ave.

Dates and times:  June 10th & 11th, 2016 from 9am to 4:45pm

Cost: $400 + HST = $452.  Student rates also available.

For flyer and/or registration form:  email me at jessica@jessicazeyl.com

Please pass on the word to GP Psychotherapists, Psychologists, Psychotherapists, Social workers, Mental Health Practitioners, Community Workers, Teachers, Youth Workers, Pastors, etc.

Another couples retreat

Terry Noble and I are hosting another Hold Me Tight retreat for couples.  As we’ve seen incredible growth, healing and connection happen at these retreats, we’re now committed to hosting them twice annually.

This one will be held again at the Kingfisher Bay Retreat on Stony Lake from Friday October 16 to Sunday October 18, 2015.

We have space for eight couples.

Here’s the poster:

Poster for October 2015

If you’d like a registration form, please email me at jessica@jessicazeyl.com

Emotion affirming families vs. emotion dismissing families

This blog entry is also posted to my Toronto Counselling Centre for Teens blog here.

John Gottman is a couples researcher and therapist trainer.  He writes a number of books that are popular and available online as well as at most book stores.  There are also a number of videos posted of him on youtube.  I like him.  I appreciate his quirky approach and his commitment to research.  In his early research days he used to get couples to fight and he hooked them up to a number of machines that would measure their movements, heart rate, etc.  Now he has a love lab in Seattle where there is an apartment that couples stay in and they are monitored for research.

There’s an important part of his research that I want to highlight today.  He looks at a variety of aspects of couples, what hinders them from relating and what helps them to relate.  One of the areas he looks into is their families of origin.

He (as well as others) have focused on two types of families: emotion affirming families and emotion dismissing families.

Let’s start with emotion dismissing families.  There is a range of qualities or behaviours that you might find in an emotion dismissing family.  These families believe that a person can decide or will what they will feel.  Action is favoured over self reflection.  You’ll hear phrases used like “suck it up”, “roll with the punches”, etc. in these families.  Having needs is usually bad.  Feeling or reflecting on sadness, anger or fear is a waste of time.  Children in these families become effective at compartmentalizing/suppressing emotion.  Parents are quick to correct behaviours and emotions.

Emotion affirming families, by contrast, tend to believe that emotions are a guide on how to manage life.  Emotions can’t be decided, they simply just exist and they contain information about a person and their situation.  Self reflection is encouraged and understanding emotion is the basis for action or making decisions.  They believe that all feelings are acceptable, but not all behaviour is acceptable.  In these families a variety of words are used to describe emotion.  Knowing one’s needs is considered a strength.  Parents are quick to praise positive behaviour.

Some families will fall under one of these two categories.  Some families will have some sort of blend of the two categories.

Which one is better?  The answer isn’t simple.  There are situations where it is helpful to favour action over self reflection and, of course, situations where the reverse is true.

In general, however, the research indicates that emotion affirming families (as opposed to emotion dismissing families) produce children that grow up to feel more secure in the world and are more likely to have satisfying relationships.

So both John Gottman and I are inclined to encourage families to be emotion affirming families.  For me, this is informed by my years of experience as a therapist.  I have worked with countless people who are quite effective at suppressing their emotions and it causes them a lot of problems.  In my opinion, people who suppress their emotions tend to either cut themselves or have high levels of depression and/or anxiety.  They also have little sense of how to trust their own intuition.  They can struggle in intimate relationships with having the language or understanding of how to talk about the relationship itself.

If possible, I like to end blog entries on a hopeful note.  This is because in every situation there is the possibility for some level of empowerment and positive change.  When thinking about the families we come from or the families we are parenting, the good news is that people from all types of families can heal, grow and adapt.

The descriptions of both types of families are paraphrased from Gottman’s chapter in the Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy Fourth Edition edited by Alan S. Gurman.


As I’ve been working as a therapist for a number of years now and my private practice is now almost one year old,  I’m probably long overdue for a blog.

I’m going to kick off this blog with the topic of attachment.  Why attachment?  Regardless of what brings you into therapy: couples counselling, trauma, anxiety, etc…. attachment is relevant to you and your healing.

This is from an article called The Brain on Love by Diane Ackerman at the New York Times:

A loving touch is enough to change everything. James Coan, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, conducted experiments in 2006 in which he gave an electric shock to the ankles of women in happy, committed relationships. Tests registered their anxiety before, and pain level during, the shocks.

Then they were shocked again, this time holding their loving partner’s hand. The same level of electricity produced a significantly lower neural response throughout the brain. In troubled relationships, this protective effect didn’t occur. If you’re in a healthy relationship, holding your partner’s hand is enough to subdue your blood pressure, ease your response to stress, improve your health and soften physical pain. We alter one another’s physiology and neural functions.

This study is exciting and it is scientific confirmation of what therapists have intuitively suspected all along – that we thrive, heal and live to our fullest potential when we are in committed, loving and healthy relationships.  Jim Coan has gone on to run the same tests with friends rather than partners.  The results were the same.

So when you’re going to face a stressful or intense situation, grab a loved one’s hand and hold them close.  It’s not in your best interest to tough it out on your own.  We are at our best when experiencing attachment with others.  If you don’t happen to have a loved one to support you, the good news is that a therapist can be an excellent ‘plan B’ for relational encouragement and support.

If this has piqued your curiosity, you may want to read Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson.