Get to know Dr. Sue Johnson, this month's Face of PESI!
Sue is the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT) and co-developer of Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy, which collectively have demonstrated their effectiveness in over 30 years of peer-reviewed clinical research.
Why did you get into therapy?
I got into therapy because I found it so rewarding to connect with people who were struggling. A lot of my work in the beginning was in disturbed adolescence. On one hand, they were so defended and on the other hand, they were so fragile. I found the whole challenge of connecting with them. understanding their world and understanding their struggles fascinating.
Then I got into working with couples and it was obvious that nobody knew how to do it – and I didn’t know how to do it either. There were all these theories about teaching them communication skill. When couples were fighting and arguing, I got enthralled. I started watching my couples obsessively and suddenly, it became obvious to me what the dance was about and what they were struggling with. I got hooked and fascinated!
When I found attachment science, it changed everything. Now I had a map. I understood what was going on. Sessions then became safe adventures for myself and my clients, and to this day even though I mostly do EFIT right now, I learn from every client I see. I am enthralled by every client I see and their struggles on how we turn ourselves into pretzels to avoid pain, and somehow end up just going back into the same pain again. I’m fascinated and it teaches about what it is to be human and I learn about amazing human beings are and how they can grow.I never got bored with therapy and I never got burned out. In general, I think EFTers are a passionate lot.
What advice would you give to new therapists?
There are so many techniques, so many theories, and so many tips. I am biased when I say this, of course, but all the research says that we change and grow when we’re emotionally engaged, and I think that’s true for therapists too. Find a model that moves you, that intrigues you, that grabs you and inspires you. Then, put that energy into doing it well.
Do you prefer coffee or tea?
I’m English. I drink tea until I turn into a tea bag.
What is your favorite therapy book?
Anything by John Bowlby or the handbook of attachment written by my wonderful colleagues Mario Mikulincer and Phil Shaver, who talk about the science that tells us who we are, how we get stuck and how we can grow. They’ve taken it and made it fascinating and interesting.
What is your favorite hobby?
I’m a gardener and I can spend hours gardening. I have a big garden in my house in Victoria, which is a massively beautiful place on the west coast of Canada. And I have a garden on my island house, which is dry, rocky, and ingested with deer. So, if you’re going to garden on the island, you’re either mental or obsessed. But I really like gardening.
Do you prefer dogs or cats?
Dogs. When I was a child, I didn’t have any siblings, and because of the rather strange circumstances where I grew up in an English pub, I didn’t have any friends. I went to a school where everyone was upper class, rich, and Catholic. And I was poor and not Catholic, so I didn’t exactly fit in. So, I had no friends, but I did have my dog. Dogs have always been so special to me. They’re such beautiful animals and they interact with you!
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
I used to be a night owl. However, I have backed off a bit and now, I don’t do that. I tend to go to bed earlier and meditate for a while or read to decompress. But I used to be a night owl to the point where I think it was not healthy at all, but now I’m sort of in the middle.
What is the next big thing to come out of the therapy world?
I hope the next big thing is that we go back to basics, and we decide that we’re going to understand who we are, and we take attachment science and all its wisdom and apply it to individual couple and family therapy, which is what we’re trying to do in EFT. That should be the next big thing.
People are very caught in the next big thing being psychedelic drugs. Personally, I’m not convinced at all by that. If you’re going to take somebody on a drug trip, you better be a really good guide and I’m not convinced that we even know how to help people be good guides.
We don’t need to put people on psychedelic drugs. We can take them to the heart of the matter by following their emotions and being with them in a particular way. We don’t need psychedelic drugs. We get there anyway, and it’s safer and more respectful.
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Dr. Sue Johnson, is an author, clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, popular presenter and speaker and a leading innovator in the field of couple therapy and adult attachment.
Featuring topics like Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy (EFIT) Level 1 Certificate Course, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional Level 1, and more, browse through her catalog of courses, digital seminars, books and more.