“When we’re safe and secure and we feel we matter to others and that they have our back, our potential and our resources come out.”— Dr. Sue Johnson
Dr. Sue Johnson (@Dr_SueJohnson) is a leading innovator in the fields of couple therapy and adult attachment. She is the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT), which has demonstrated its effectiveness in over 30 years of peer-reviewed clinical research. Sue has received numerous awards in recognition of her development of EFT, including the American Psychological Association’s “Family Psychologist of the Year” and the Order of Canada.
Her best-selling book Hold Me Tight — with more than one million copies sold—has taught countless couples how to enhance and repair their love relationships. The book has since been developed into a relationship enhancement program called Hold Me Tight Online. Her most recent book for clinicians, Attachment Theory in Practice, delineates the promise of attachment science for understanding and repairing relationships.
As the founding director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT), Sue trains counselors in EFT worldwide and provides guidance to 80 affiliated centers. She consults for the US and Canadian militaries and is a popular presenter and speaker for the general public.
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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
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Want to hear another episode with someone who seeks to help people better connect? Listen in on my last conversation with psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel, in which we discussed conducting remote therapy with couples during quarantine, coping with uncertainty, the paradoxes presented by spending more time with the family, prompts for reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, dancing versus exercise, the importance of decompressing from too much bad news, and much more.
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with Dr. Sue Johnson:
- Attachment Theory in Practice: Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with Individuals, Couples, and Families by Dr. Sue Johnson | Amazon
- Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson | Amazon
- Hold Me Tight Online Program
- What is EFT? | The International Centre For Excellence In Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT)
- Outcomes Research | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- At the Heart of Health | Cardus
- What Is a Milonga? | Argentine Tango
- How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires… | Tim Ferriss
- Predicting Change in Marital Satisfaction Throughout Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy
- Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) | UF Health
- Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5) – PTSD | National Center for PTSD
- Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships by Dr. Sue Johnson | Amazon
- Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS) | Fetzer Institute
- Beck’s Depression Inventory | ISMA
- Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (ESR) | Open-Source Psychometrics Project
- A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Psychology
- Soothing the Threatened Brain: Leveraging Contact Comfort with Emotionally Focused Therapy | PloS One
- What is Hold Me Tight? | ICEEFT
- My Healing Journey After Childhood Abuse (Includes Extensive Resource List) | The Tim Ferriss Show #464
- Desperado by Eagles | Amazon
- Attachment Parenting Basic Principles and Criticisms | Verywell Family
- Sleep Training Your Child: Myths and Facts Every Parent Should Know | Duke Department of Pediatrics
- Implementing a Student-Sustained No One Dies Alone (NODA) Program at an Academic Institution | Center to Advance Palliative Care
- In Pictures: Politician Mothers Take Their Babies to Work | BBC News
- New Zealand Speaker Cradles MP’s Baby during Parliament Debate | BBC News
- Stroppy | Merriam-Webster
- An Introduction to Rogerian (Person-Centered) Therapy | ThoughtCo.
- Ten Strategies for Evoking Change Talk | UIHI
- Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy | Hakomi Institute
- The Last Lion Box Set: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1874 – 1965 by Paul Reid and William Manchester | Amazon
- What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry | Amazon
- How Winston Churchill Endured the Blitz — and Taught the People of England to Do the Same | Smithsonian Magazine
- Winston Churchill during the First World War in Belgium | Imperial War Museums
- Tango | Wikipedia
- Tango World Record: Tim Ferriss and Alicia Monti | Live with Regis and Kelly
- Los Hermanos Macana | YouTube
- Requiem for a Niño Bien | The Tango Life
- The Cathedral of Tango: Review of Sunderland Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina | Trip Advisor
- The Swan Mating Ritual | Destination Stratford
- Unconscious Desire: The Affective and Motivational Aspects of Subliminal Sexual Priming | Archives of Sexual Behavior
- The Misunderstood Science of Sexual Desire | New York Magazine
- A.R.E. You There? What Is the Secret Ingredient That Makes a Relationship Thrive? | Ondina Wellness
- Sexuality in Older Couples: Individual and Dyadic Characteristics | Archives of Sexual Behavior
- What peer-reviewed clinical research supports Sue’s work? [06:25]
- EFT has a high success rate in studies with distressed couples. How is success clinically defined for these couples? [09:33]
- What scales are used to assess marital satisfaction and bond, and how has this played out in research? [13:33]
- What is a hold me tight conversation? [19:41]
- Examples of how hold me tight conversations can take shape. [21:01]
- How a hold me tight conversation might work for someone who has a tendency to isolate (or feels isolated). [32:01]
- On just how common such isolation is, and how “dependency” has become such a dirty word. [40:17]
- Attachment parenting vs. sleep training. [44:36]
- What are micro-interventions from Rogerian models of therapy (aka evocative questions)? [54:18]
- How does Sue respond to a client who can’t really answer how they’re feeling in their body? [1:02:47]
- How would someone “up the ante” in the context of a hold me tight conversation, and why does it usually have the opposite of its intended effect? [1:09:41]
- How does Sue help someone work through anger? [1:11:35]
- Why Sue is fascinated by Winston Churchill, and reading she recommends for someone who wants to know more about him. [1:15:02]
- Tango talk. Since it famously takes two to tango, what kind of arguments do tango couples get into? [1:20:33]
- How would Sue advise a couple who’s very much in love but their sexual spark has faded? [1:33:44]
- Advice for a couple in which the woman has a more sustained sex drive than the man. [1:43:11]
- What brought about the development of Sue’s Hold Me Tight Online program, and what can people expect from it? [1:48:44]
- Parting thoughts. [1:53:17]
MORE DR. SUE JOHNSON QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“Love is an ancient, wired-in survival code.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“If you can’t find comfort in the arms of another to heal from trauma, it’s bad news.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“What attachment science tells us is that emotional isolation is toxic for human beings. We found out that in the pandemic, but we still don’t get it.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Once you feel seen, accepted, and held, there’s a natural human growth process that happens.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“The way human beings have survived through the centuries is through tuning in to others, reading their cues, collaborating, cooperating, moving close, supporting—that’s the way we’ve survived. And if you look at the problems facing our world right now, we’d better be learning from this science or we’re not going to survive. We’ve got to be able to come together.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Shutting down and numbing out is a fragile strategy you can’t keep up for your whole life. It shatters under any kind of pressure.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Parenting is a moving target. You accommodate your child, then your child changes.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“We understand that to be emotionally alone traumatizes a child. We need to apply that to adults because in that sense, we never grow up. Attachment goes from the cradle to the grave.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Some of the cliches we have about love are really awful misinformation. But one of the cliches that’s really true—and this is true in most religions—is that when we’re loved, we grow and expand.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Attachment gives us a map to how we dance together with the people we love and where those dances go in terms of outcome. It gives us a map to our own vulnerabilities and emotions. It tells us how supremely sensitive we are to signals of rejection or abandonment by other people, and that this sensitivity is wired in.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“We all know on some deep, visceral level how much we need others, and the strongest among us can accept that and learn how to connect.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Tango is about attunement, and so is love.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“In the end, what none of us can bear is the feeling that we’re alone and that we don’t matter to another human being.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“Passion is about feeling safe enough to be completely absorbed in the experience and let it take you over. Passion is about full engagement.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
“It’s very hard to be open and physiologically responsive when you’re afraid and guarding yourself all the time.” — Dr. Sue Johnson
- James Coan
- John Bowlby
- Carl Rogers
- Winston Churchill
- Oprah Winfrey
- Bruce D. Perry
- Omri Gillath
- Rosemary Basson
- James S. Chisholm
- Edward O. Laumann
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