About Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT)


Q: What is the theoretical foundation of EFT?

A: EFT is based primarily on attachment theory.

Attachment theory highlights how connection and belonging are as essential to humans as food and water. From an evolutionary perspective, we are hardwired to connect in order to survive—we would literally die if we did not have someone to take care of us as helpless babies. For this reason, as children we learn to adapt to ensure our attachment to parents, aligning with messages we receive about the primary language of children: emotion. For example, if when I was upset as a child I was told, “be a good girl and don’t cause a fuss," I might learn to minimize my feelings and needs. I may learn that being sad, scared, or angry is “bad” in order to stay in the loving eye of mum/dad. This is undeniably adaptive at the time, from a survival/belonging point of view, but how it shapes our relationships with ourselves and others as adults can create challenging and painful dynamics. When we explore and start to reclaim parts of ourselves that were “not allowed” or unsafe to express in our family of origin, we work to upgrade our survival strategies, teaching the body that it is indeed safe to be all of who we are. 


Q: What do you mean when you say that EFT is "experiential"?

A: “Experiential” means that we use the counselling session itself to facilitate an alternative experience to that which is troubling you.

During counselling sessions, we are always checking in with the present-moment experience in the room as we talk about stories from the past. Telling stories from the past week or past decade will activate the same areas of the brain as the original and related stories from childhood. This means that by slowing down and relating to these experiences in a new way within our sessions, we actually get the opportunity to create a different end to the same story. This is called a “corrective experience" and is how humans learn not just with the mind, but with our entire being, enabling us to grow, heal, and change.


Q: What do you mean when you say EFT is a type of "relational" therapy?

A: EFT is a relational therapy in that it seeks to understand how our past relationships have led us to our current patterns of feeling, thinking, and behaving, and then uses the counselling relationship to bring about desired change.

Human beings are fundamentally relational. We understand ourselves through our relationships with others and ourselves. Counselling provides an opportunity for a unique and healing relationship, one of non-judgement, unconditional acceptance, and active collaboration.  These are the conditions for growth that enable us to tap into our inner wisdom and capacity to heal.


Q: Will EFT get me stuck in difficult emotions?

A: No. EFT helps you tolerate and move through and beyond difficult emotions.

When we work to connect the dots between past and present using EFT, clients can move past self-criticism and shame and often see their challenges in a whole new light. At first sadness may accompany this new awareness—grief for truly seeing and being with the pain you have been holding. However, the flip side of this sadness is self-compassion, and in time this compassion and understanding promotes internal safety and healing.  


Q: Can I ask about your counselling strategies within our sessions?

A: I am happy to explain my approach in detail at any point in our process.

There is nothing secretive about what happens in the counselling room. I value transparency, so if you want any more information about the “whys” of counselling, feel free to ask! I work hard to de-mystify the process for those who need this to build safety and a sense of equality in our connection. 


Q: How frequently do we need to meet for EFT to be effective?

A: Clients custom make their EFT experience.

Clients might come in weekly, every two weeks, or monthly, while others might come now and again when they feel the need. Weekly continuity is ideal when possible, as the more you give, the more you get. However, first and foremost your counselling schedule needs to feel realistic and sustainable within your lifestyle and financial commitments.


back to top

Couples vs individual counselling


Q: Should I seek individual counselling before starting couples counselling?

A: It is not necessary. 

If you are interested in couples counselling but think that you need to do individual work first, oftentimes this is not the case. Couples work can in fact speed up and facilitate individual growth, as our inner world’s change when we are understood and supported within the safe haven of our relationships. When we feel secure in our partnerships, it has a reverberating effect on our personal struggles. Also, in couples counselling we often address this dynamic explicitly (e.g., how relationship dynamics might be activating one partner's past trauma, anxiety, etc.). You may still want to seek individual counselling first, and that’s okay too. However, if you want to move into couples counselling after we begin our individual work, the BCACC Ethics Code requires that I see your partner for some time in order to even out the alliance.


Q: What if one partner in couples counselling becomes in need of extensive individual counselling?

A: In couples counselling, the couple is the client.

Therefore, if one partner becomes in need of extensive individual counselling in addition to our couples sessions, I will typically refer that partner to another skilled counsellor for ethical reasons.


Q: What if we just end up arguing in couples counselling?

A: I take a more active and directive approach in couples counselling compared to individual counselling, guiding the process so that it unfolds in a helpful way.

I am trained to de-escalate arguments, and to create safety for opening up during painful silences. There is a feeling of non-judgment and curiosity toward both partners, no matter the diverging perspectives.


Q: Is couples counselling best kept as a last resort?

A: No. Whether you are in a new relationship and want to be proactive in building security, or whether you have been together for decades and know each other inside and out, couples counselling can help you to see partnership and yourself in a new light.

Oftentimes couples only consider coming to counselling when they are on the brink of a break-up or have suffered a significant rupture (e.g., an affair). You do not need to suffer alone watching your bond erode until you seek help. Just like with physical health, preventing injury when possible is more effective than repairing one.  


back to top

Costs, insurance coverage, and free consultations


Q: What does counselling cost?

A: Individual sessions are $120 each, and couples sessions are $135 each.

These rates are the industry standard for Registered Clinical Counsellors (RCCs). They represent a typical one-hour session, and would increase if longer sessions were deemed appropriate by both counsellor and client. To learn more about low-cost counselling options, go to my art-for-therapy page.


Q: Is counselling covered by extended health insurance?

A: The following plans usually cover some or all of counselling provided by a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) like myself:

  • Pacific Blue Cross
  • Great West Life
  • Sunlife Insurance
  • Green Shield Insurance
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Non-Insured Health Benefits for Aboriginal people or other publicly funded services
  • Family Assistance Programs
  • Workers Compensation Board (WCB)
  • Victim’s Assistance Services (call 604-660-3888 or toll free in BC at 1-866-660-3888 to enrol with CVAP)
  • ICBC

Please check with your insurance provider to confirm.


Q: Do you offer free consultations?

A: Yes.

I offer a 20-minute free consultation by phone or in person to anyone who would like to further assess our fit before booking an appointment. You cannot book this through my clinic's online booking system, so please email me if you would like to set this up. Otherwise, booking your first full session will give you a better sense of what working together will be like. If either of us senses that we are not an ideal fit, I will do my best to refer you to someone who I think would be a good fit for you. 


Q: Do you offer low-cost counselling?

A: Yes. 

I take a certain number of clients who cannot afford the usual rates and who are highly invested in their change process. If you fit this description or if you would like to help make more low-cost counselling available to others, please see my art-for-therapy page.


back to top

The love/hate of sharing emotions and memories


Q: If you ask me something I am uncomfortable with, can I say no?

A: You can always say no.  

I check in frequently about how the process is going for you, and whole-heartedly encourage feedback and honesty. Some emotional exploration may bring up discomfort. We will gauge together whether it is the kind of discomfort that needs our attention and persistence, or if it is the kind that moves you out of your “window of tolerance” and we need to shift gears to ground back into safety. Ultimately, you are in control, and it is about meeting your needs.


Q: Does “emotions focused” mean I have to cry?

A: No. But here's why it may not be such a bad thing.

While it is totally normal to not want to cry in our sessions, avoiding or suppressing emotions actually takes more brainpower than it does to express them freely (even if the emotions are loud and intense). Suppressing emotions is so taxing on the brain and body that emotions start to spill over in sloppy ways, like symptoms of anxiety, panic, depression, physical ailments, and more. Part of counselling is to create a safe space for emotional expression. When our relationship becomes one you can trust, it can be incredibly healing to give your body permission to feel what it feels. Having a space to explore emotions freely is not only relieving and liberating, but it also gets us in touch with their function: what they tell us about what we need and how we can go about getting those needs met.


Q:Do we need to dwell on my childhood?

A: No. We are not looking to blame, re-live, or dwell on the past. When we talk about your childhood, it will be with the intention of understanding what we are noticing in the present, and of honouring, accepting, and integrating your early life experiences.

Because our sense of self and others is largely influenced by our earliest caregivers (typically parents), it is important to consider how we adapted to our circumstances as children so that we can build understanding about where we may be stuck today. This may be directly obvious, such as with clients who come in specifically to address family issues (past and present). Alternatively, it may be indirectly important, such as when clients are dealing with behaviours or thought patterns that seem to make no rational sense, but that start to make valid emotional sense when we explore the family history. Doing this core relational work can have far-reaching therapeutic benefits, reducing symptoms in other areas of life, like anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, and self-criticism.


Q: Will this work be painful?

A: Possibly at times, but always with support.

In counselling, you will be asked directly about your feelings. This can be uncomfortable for some, and bring up wounds that need tending to. We collaboratively pace and dose this experience so that we remain within your window of tolerance as best we can. Similar to how going to the gym is hard work at first but ultimately leaves you feeling strong and healthy, the discomfort you courageously experience in session also ends in emotional health and strength.


back to top

Sex talk, anxiety attacks, and deep fears


Q: Can I talk about sex openly?

A: Yes.

This is a highly vulnerable topic for many people to open up about. Whether it's questions about sexual orientation/identity, your dissatisfaction in bed with a long-term partner, performance anxiety, your desire to explore kinkier options, safety issues, or other sexual topics, these facets of your creative and erotic self are welcome and honoured in counselling. When it comes to couples counselling, couples often have an emotional cycle and a sexual cycle, and the roles we occupy may be different in each realm. In EFT, we start by addressing the emotional cycle to build safety and gather important information around how this influences the sexual cycle. 


Q: What if I have a panic attack in session? 

A: I would actively yet calmly guide you through. 

If you have a history of panic attacks, you know that sometimes emotions are just too overwhelming for your body to tolerate, and the mind can do very little to take control. Your heart may race, and you may become short of breath. This is a scary place, and it often happens in a battle between mind and body. The body always wins; it needs us to know that something is not right. Although we will work hard to stay within your window of tolerance, if panic takes over in session, we would immediately shift our focus to bringing the body back to safety. I would actively yet calmly guide you to take deep breaths, perhaps get out of your seat, stomp your feet, count objects in the room, etc. to bring the body back to the present moment. We would take as much time as we need to calm the body, as it is in this way that we calm and soothe the fear.


Q: Will I be diagnosed?

A: No. 

I do not operate from a diagnostic model. I will not be assessing whether you fit into any diagnostic criteria, but instead will be listening to your story and stuck points in the context of your life history. When we make sense of the issues in context, rather than label them/you, it is my belief that we become better positioned to empower you to make changes. If you do identify with a certain label (depression, addiction, etc.), we unpack the meaning of this for you and consider how this impacts your sense of wellbeing.


Q: What if there is something seriously wrong with me?

A: This is a fear I will help you overcome.

Oftentimes when we are alone in our suffering, we start to question whether there is something wrong with us, or if we are the only ones suffering in this way. This is shame talking, and shame feeds off silence and isolation. Pain is challenging; pain paired with aloneness can be traumatizing. When we bravely share our stories to a safe, non-judgmental other, we learn that we are indeed not alone, and our imperfections are far more “normal” and common than shame makes us think. The fear that something must be terribly wrong with us starts to melt away when we courageously speak the painful truth. In doing so, we undercut shame and let connection and empathy take its place.


Q: What if I'm overreacting and just being ungrateful for what I have?

A: Pain is pain. It does not understand that it “should” be anything other than it is.

Despite the good intentions of friends and society reminding us to be grateful, these messages can often serve to minimize or dismiss our suffering. For example, when we tell ourselves to “focus on the good” or “my issue is nothing compared to others’,” the body can register this as “my pain doesn't matter”or even worse, “I don’t matter”—and this only adds to the suffering and shame. When we honour the pain that is there, we can naturally move into gratitude in a way that serves us rather than shames us. 


back to top