Marisol Villagrana, LSW

Bilingual therapy in Reno with Marisol Villagrana. Emotional & Relationship Health Counseling Associates, Reno, NV

Meet Marisol Villagrana, LSW

Hi! I’m Marisol Villagrana, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker Intern (LSWI) with Emotional & Relationship Health Counseling Associates in Reno.

Originally from Oregon, I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy from the University of Oregon. Before pursuing my master’s, I spent several years working in mental health and have loved being a part of helping people find the relief, meaning and connection they’ve been seeking. Inspired by my son, I decided to earn my Master’s in Social Work from the University of Denver. During my studies, I provided therapy to adults in rural Oregon, utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and incorporating elements of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Moreover, I taught mindfulness exercises and distress tolerance skills.

As a bilingual, Latina therapist in Reno, I offer services in both English and Spanish language.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, friends, and my pets – two huskies and two cats. If you need compassionate and dedicated support, I’m here to help. Therefore, I invite you to contact me to schedule a session or learn more about how we can work together. My standard session fee is $100.

Spanish Speaking Therapist in Reno

¡Hola! Soy Marisol Villagrana, Pasante de Trabajadora Social Clínica Licenciada (LSWI), y estoy emocionada de unirme a Emotional & Relationship Health Counseling Associates en Reno.

Originalmente de Oregón, tengo una Licenciatura en Psicología con una especialización en Filosofía de la Universidad de Oregón. Antes de obtener mi maestría, pasé varios años trabajando en salud mental. Inspirada por mi hijo, decidí obtener mi Maestría en Trabajo Social de la Universidad de Denver. Durante mis estudios, brindé terapia a adultos en zonas rurales de Oregón, utilizando Terapia Cognitivo-Conductual (CBT) e incorporando elementos de Terapia Dialéctica Conductual (DBT). Además, enseñé ejercicios de atención plena y habilidades de tolerancia al malestar.

Como terapeuta bilingüe y latina en Reno, ofrezco servicios tanto en inglés como en español.

Fuera del trabajo, disfruto pasar tiempo con mi familia, amigos y mis mascotas: dos huskies y dos gatos. Si necesitas apoyo compasivo y dedicado, estoy aquí para ayudarte. Por lo tanto, te invito a contactarme para programar una sesión o aprender más sobre cómo podemos trabajar juntos. Mi tarifa estándar por sesión es de $100.

Hillary Harris, M.A.

Hillary Harris is a clinical intern who provides therapy in Reno, NV with Relationship Counseling Associates. July, 2024 photo

Meet Hillary Harris

Hi, I’m Hillary Harris, a Clinical Professional Counselor Intern therapist in Reno. Whether you’re experiencing loneliness, misunderstanding, disconnection or unhealed wounds, I can help. I have specialized training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a gold-standard for relationship counseling.

Research consistently shows that a strong therapeutic relationship, also called the therapeutic alliance, is vital for successful treatment. My goal is to create a supportive and collaborative environment where we can build emotional and relationship resilience. Using my specialized training, I help clients identify and disrupt negative cycles to foster lasting change. I’m passionate about working with couples, first responders, military personnel, those experiencing relationship loss, and individuals with PTSD. Additionally, I am part of a highly-collaborative team and do regular case consultation with our Clinical Director, Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW and Clinical Lead, Amanda Stewart, LCSW.

My military experience gives me insight into the unique challenges of high-stress jobs with chronic exposure to intense content. Additionally, for those interested, I am also comfortable incorporating Christian faith-based principles to support the client’s personal values and belief.

At Emotional and Relationship Health Counseling Associates, our team provides attentive and personalized support. If you’re searching for a therapist in Reno, call us. We can discuss our approach and see if we’re the right fit. We offer a free consultation.

My standard session fee is $120. Our team is here to help you navigate your challenges and support your healing and growth. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. This is your first step towards improving your emotional wellbeing and relationship health. I look forward to supporting you on the path of self-awareness, self-acceptance, joy, and meaning.

Dr. Sue Johnson (1947-2024) revolutionized relationship therapy

Dr. Sue Johnson, (1947 to 2024) was the innovator of Emotionally Focused Therapy, EFT.

Remembering Dr. Sue Johnson

If you’ve heard me describe the work I do or have been a student, you’ve heard me talk about Dr. Sue Johnson. I felt (continue to feel) an enormous loss with her passing, April 23rd. No individual was more important to the development of relationship therapy than Sue. Her work and writing were grounded in seeing people’s good intent and using emotional experience to bring it back online, no matter how deeply it was buried. Sue saw the good, AND at the same time did not tolerate bad-faith engagement. She was soft, slow and warm Dr. Sue in the video demonstrations of her work, but another Sue emerged when good-faith left the discussion. I loved these things about her!

I found my professional home with her.

My work was becoming centered in attachment theory when I met Sue in the clinical research and then in a book called, “The Practice of Emotionally Focused Therapy; Creating Connection,” in 2000. A few years later I met her very briefly in person at the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim, CA. I remember my sense of her being on this little island where emotion was prized, in a huge sea of cognitive-behavioral waters. Sue made so much sense! I was working frequently with court-mandated clients and “changing thinking” was NOT an effective mechanism for change, but it was the prescribed one. Focusing on emotional experience through an attachment lens proved to be the key to true change. Fortunately, years later, I found a formal path to learning EFT. My clinical work went to a place it never would have without Dr. Sue Johnson. A week doesn’t go by without me feeling deep gratitude for Sue and Emotionally Focused Therapy. Thanks to Sue, I could profoundly impact my clients’ lives in ways I never imagined when starting my career.

In this same professional home I met colleagues from around the world, some of whom are now amongst the most dear and important people in my life. They are family. I’m glad Sue knew how grateful we were for the connections she fostered – connections evident at EFT summits, trainings, and online.

Sue Johnson embodied what she taught.

I wasn’t a close, personal friend of Sue. But I did spend some time with her and did correspond with her periodically- and this always felt close and personal. You could feel her attentiveness and focus in a way that I can only describe as “honoring”. Sue engaged in this way, and I think this way of attending was a big part of what she helped therapist students find in their work. I’ll treasure my correspondence with her, the opportunity I had to do a live case consultation with her and my role in continuing to grow a community of EFT therapists in the Reno/Tahoe area.

My heart goes out to the Sue’s family, the people closest to her and other colleagues experiencing her loss. Sue’s work will not only live on, but will continue to be expanded upon and proliferate. Here is a link to an article in the Ottawa Citizen where you can learn more about Sue and her work.

Cover photo of Dr. Sue Johnson (PHOTO BY BRUNO SCHLUMBERGER /Postmedia)

Relationship Counseling in Reno: Support for Healthy Relationships

Relationship Counseling in Reno offices of Emotional & Relationship Health, Counseling Associates. Therapy in Reno

Relationship Counseling in Reno: Support for Healthy Relationships

Our therapists in Reno provide skilled relationship counseling, where individuals and couples can explore and enhance their emotional connections within the framework of attachment-science-based therapy.

What is Relationship Counseling?

Relationship counseling is an intentional, focused, structured process. One where clients engage with a therapist to dissect and address the nuances of their relationship. It’s a chance to look, without judgment or side-taking, at the emotional undercurrents that influence relationship functioning. In a safe, accepting therapeutic setting, couples experience articulating their feelings, listening and being listened to, and validating each other’s experiences. Very importantly, this process is not about assigning blame. Rather, it is about discovering, distilling and uncovering. Specifically, uncovering how each partner’s early experiences and the behaviors these experiences have shaped contribute to how they show up in relationship. It’s a step toward mutual understanding and empathy, providing a foundation for more authentic and supportive interactions. By participating in counseling, couples commit to a journey of self-discovery and joint growth, laying the groundwork for a more resilient and fulfilling partnership.

Benefits of Relationship Counseling

Improved Communication

One of the primary benefits of relationship counseling is the enhancement of communication skills. Counselors facilitate discussions that help partners articulate their needs, fears, and desires more clearly, fostering a deeper understanding. This process is crucial for breaking down walls of misunderstanding and building bridges of care. In this way couples learn not just to talk but to communicate with intention, listening not only to words but to the emotions and meanings beneath them. This heightened level of communication fosters a sense of closeness and trust, enabling partners to express themselves freely and understand each other on a more profound level.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Effective conflict resolution is another significant benefit of relationship counseling. With this aim, couples learn to approach disagreements with a mindset geared toward resolution and mutual understanding rather than victory. The counselor introduces strategies to de-escalate tensions, promote constructive dialogue, and explore underlying issues contributing to conflicts. This approach helps partners see conflicts as joint problems to solve rather than battles to win, shifting the dynamics from adversarial to collaborative. As couples develop these skills, they find that conflicts become less frequent and less intense, and they’re able to navigate disagreements with greater ease and understanding.

How Relationship Counseling Works

Understanding the Issues

The initial phase of relationship counseling involves delving into the couple’s history, individual backgrounds, and the specific challenges they face. This exploration is guided by the principles of attachment-science-based therapy, which emphasizes the importance of secure emotional bonds. The therapist helps the couple identify patterns of interaction that may be rooted in their attachment styles, offering insights into how these patterns influence their relationship. This phase is crucial for setting the stage for meaningful change, as it lays bare the dynamics that need addressing. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand, couples and therapists can collaboratively devise a path forward that honors each partner’s needs and the relationship’s potential for growth.

Developing Action Plans

With a clear understanding of the relationship’s dynamics, couples move on to developing actionable strategies to address their challenges. These plans are tailored to the couple’s unique situation, focusing on fostering secure, supportive interactions based on attachment science. Goals always include enhancing emotional availability, improving responsiveness, and creating a more secure attachment bond. The therapist works closely with the couple, providing guidance, support, and feedback as they experiment with new ways of relating to each other. This phase is dynamic and interactive, with the therapist adapting strategies as the couple evolves, ensuring that the action plans remain relevant and effective in promoting healthy, lasting changes in the relationship.

Finding the Right Counselor

Selecting a therapist who aligns with your values and understands the nuances of your relationship is pivotal. In Reno, where we practice attachment-science-based therapy, it’s essential to find a counselor with expertise in working with relationships. Our approach at Emotional & Relationship Counseling Associates, focuses on building and reinforcing secure attachment bonds, a fundamental aspect of healthy relationships. When choosing a counselor, consider their background in attachment theory, their experience with couples, and their approach to therapy. It’s often helpful to schedule an initial consultation to gauge the therapist’s compatibility with your needs and to discuss your goals for counseling. The right therapist should provide a safe, non-judgmental space where both partners feel comfortable and supported, fostering open communication and genuine progress in the relationship. In this supportive environment, couples can explore their dynamics, address their challenges, and work collaboratively towards a stronger, more connected partnership.

Questions To Ask a Therapist Before You Start

Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW is a therapist and founder / director of therapy in Reno, NV practice: Emotional & Relationship Health Associates. Reno, NV Specialist in Couple counseling

Starting couple’s therapy is a significant step towards improving your relationship. However, finding the right therapist for you and your partner can be difficult. It requires an evaluation process, for which you need the right criteria. You want confidence that the therapist’s expertise aligns with your specific needs. A prospective therapist should be willing to do a brief consultation before you begin working together. Below, I’ve shared a list of what experience has taught me are some of the most important questions to ask a therapist you’re considering working with. I’ve divided the questions into three categories: 1) A Therapist’s qualifications. 2) The therapist’s theoretical perspective on relationship distress, and on wellness. 3) The therapist’s process.

Here is a checklist of questions you might ask during a consultation with a potential new couple therapist to find out if they’re right for you:

Couple Therapist Qualifications

Experience and Professional Engagement
Approximately what percentage of your practice over the last two years has been dedicated to working with couples?” And, “do you have a regular consultation process wherein you discuss your work?” These questions aim to assess the therapist’s dedication to couples therapy. A therapist applying techniques learned for individual therapy to the complexities of a couple’s dynamics can fall far short of what a relationship needs.

Specialized Couple Therapy Training and Qualifications
What specific training in couples therapy have you undertaken?” Exploring their specialized training provides insight into their qualifications and dedication, facilitating the process of finding the right therapist for you. Prospective therapists should be able to describe application of a method of therapy relative to their training. An EFT Couple Therapist can describe their process in a detailed fashion.
“Do you have specific training regarding difficulties related to sexuality?” This is an important question for couples struggling with problems relating to sexuality to ask.

Feedback and Evaluation Process
“How do you provide feedback and evaluate progress in therapy?” This question allows couples to understand how the therapist assesses progress and navigates therapeutic milestones. A transparent feedback mechanism is vital for ensuring that therapy remains aligned with the couple’s goals and for making necessary adjustments to the therapeutic approach.

Couple Therapist’s Theoretical Orientation

Therapist’s Theoretical Orientation
“What theoretical perspective guides your work with couples?” It is essential that the therapist operates from a solid theoretical foundation, such as Attachment Theory, which is at the heart of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT). The approach a therapist takes should be grounded in solid theory. Also, there should be a structured methodology to effectively address relationship distress.

Does the Therapist Understand When NOT to Do Couple Counseling?
“What are the Contraindications to Couple Therapy?” A prospective therapist should be clear about this. They should describe when the type of couple’s therapy they do might not be the best choice or should be approached with caution. Common contraindications follow: Severe mental illness and substance use disorders that interfere with participation. Misaligned agendas for therapy. Ongoing affairs that threaten a partner’s sense of security. Also, a risk of violence that prohibits vulnerability. In some cases, addressing the contraindicating issue (such as through individual therapy, addiction treatment, or safety planning) can make couple therapy like EFT a viable option later on.

Therapist’s Focus: Emotional Connection or Behavioral Contracts?
“How important is the emotional bond versus behavioral contracts in your approach to couple dynamics?” Herein, a therapist who emphasizes strengthening the emotional connection addresses the core issues of relationship distress effectively. The late Dr. Sue Johnson’s insight, “it’s about the bond, not a bargain,” poignantly captures the essence of couple therapy.

Perspective on Enhancing Communication Skills
“How do you work to enhance communication skills in your therapy sessions?” Ideally, the therapist’s approach should highlight the importance of fostering trust that your partner is available, responsive and emotionally engaged. By contrast, a focus on mere communication techniques can interfere with the depth of understanding in the relationship. “I statements” and similar “communication tips” don’t come online readily when intense emotion gets stirred. This is a very important distinction in finding the right therapist for you.

Couple Therapist’s Process

Expectations for Therapy Duration and Frequency
“What are your expectations for the duration and frequency of therapy sessions?” This question helps set realistic expectations for the therapy process. For example, you want to understand how long it might take to see improvements and how often sessions will occur. Therapy is a significant investment. It’s crucial for planning and commitment to the therapeutic journey that you know what to expect.

Strategies for Enhancing Connection Outside Therapy
“What strategies do you recommend for couples to enhance their connection outside of therapy sessions?” A therapist who offers practical tools, exercises and resources for couples to work on between sessions demonstrates a proactive approach to therapy. This can help accelerate progress by encouraging partners to actively engage outside the therapeutic setting.

Approach to Individual Sessions
“Do you conduct individual sessions with partners?” Generally, therapy should involve both partners, with individual sessions reserved for specific assessment purposes. This approach reflects the therapist’s commitment to treating the relationship as the central client. Further, you probably don’t have the right therapist for you if they don’t have a clear policy about how to treat informations shared during individual sessions!

Ensuring Impartiality
“How do you maintain impartiality in your sessions?” Asking this question probes the therapist’s strategy for navigating complex couple dynamics. Thereby, ensuring they view the relationship as an interconnected system. I think it’s so important to feel confident about a prospective therapist’s answer to this question. This is because the experience of therapist bias toward one partner is a primary reason clients cite for therapy “failing.”

Summary: Finding the Right Therapist for You

Selecting the right couple therapist is a process. Importantly, one that requires careful consideration and inquiry. The list of questions provided herein are designed to provide meaningful insights. Specifically, insights into a therapist’s approach, philosophy, and their suitability for navigating the complexities of your relationship. We invite your questions and offer a no-cost, confidential consultation.

I hope this approach helps ensure you get couple counseling underway with the right therapist. Ideally, you’ll be with a compassionate, well-trained professional who provides a clear vision of process and goals. And of course, one who can effectively support and guide you through the challenges and opportunities of strengthening your relationship.

Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW, seated. Therapist in Reno for Relationship counseling

“The Science of Relationships: Healing, Emotion, & Connection with Drs. Sue Johnson & Jim Furrow”

Drs. Sue Johnson and Jim Furrow discuss attachment and improving relationships, with Pam King

With & For“, a podcast hosted by Dr. Pam King.

This is a wonderfully warm and informative program where Sue and Jim discuss the core importance of relationship, and improving relationship. The following topics are covered:

• Living in a way this is, “fully alive.”

• How to bring together the spectrum of emotional realities with our lived experience

• Today’s loneliness epidemic; what to do about it

• The importance of empathy and caring in the healing process

• What is attachment science? And, the role of attachment figures in thriving relationships

• Improving relationships: therapeutic and relational practices that lead to security, a sense of worth, and competence in life.

From the show host: “Our society doesn’t want to hear about how interdependent we are—doesn’t want to hear that if we want to thrive, we have to put people first and we have to create community. And people need connection with others like they need oxygen. If you create a world where that connection isn’t very available or it all happens on a screen, you are going to have huge problems. You are going to have huge problems with depression, anxiety, suicide, emptiness—people are going to make terrible choices.” (Sue Johnson) We need each other. We are relational beings, and our thriving—or languishing—often hinges on relationships. In this episode, psychologists Sue Johnson and Jim Furrow not only explain why relationships are so important, they offer practical advice on how to pursue healing, emotional regulation, and lasting thriving in all kinds of relationships. Sue Johnson is the creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy, the gold standard in tested, proven interventions of couples and author of many books including Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Jim Furrow is a marriage and family therapist and an internationally renowned trainer of Emotionally Focused Therapy. This conversation goes from profound to practical, covering the biological and psychological science to explain why belonging gives way to becoming. We discuss the rampant emptiness and loneliness, fear, and depression people today experience and the connection between relationships and a sense of meaning in life. Sue and Jim also provide a framework for how to understand your attachment style and the way it impacts your relational health. And they discuss the practical ways we can grow and change so that we can engage in and sustain fulfilling and life giving relationships.”

Our EFT relationship therapists in Reno will help you learn more about improving relationships. Contact us for a free consultation.

“Side by Side: Navigating OCD Treatment with EFT Couple Counseling”

Couple coping effectively with OCD, walking outdoors with their son

Last week I did a presentation on what I was very surprised to find is an under-recognized area of OCD treatment: the impact of attachment theory on relationships affected by OCD.  Thrive Wellness co-sponsored an OCD Symposium in Reno that provided the opportunity to discuss OCD from a relational perspective. This article shares (in broad strokes) some key points from the presentation. In the “conclusions” section I focus on specific ways Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) can support couples facing the challenges posed by OCD in a connected, teamed-up way.

Understanding OCD within the Relationship Context

OCD’s influence on relationships extends beyond the individual symptoms of compulsions and obsessions. It can disrupt the normal flow of emotional connectivity and communication, leading to misunderstandings and emotional distance.

Assessment and Education

The therapeutic process begins with assessing the specific ways OCD affects the relationship and educating both partners about the disorder. This foundational step helps demystify OCD and sets the stage for collaborative problem-solving.

Identifying Patterns

Identifying negative interaction patterns is crucial to improving your relationship. For instance, compulsive behaviors might lead to frustration in one partner, resulting in a cycle of withdrawal and disconnection. Recognizing these dynamics allows couples to start addressing them.

Facilitating Emotional Engagement

Creating a Safe Space: A core aspect of EFT is creating a safe environment for both partners. This involves encouraging openness and vulnerability, especially for the partner with OCD, to share their fears and needs without fear of judgment.

Expressing Emotions: The therapist guides both partners in expressing their feelings related to the OCD symptoms, uncovering often-hidden emotions like isolation or resentment. This step is vital for understanding each other’s experiences.

Reframing the Problem: Viewing OCD as a shared challenge rather than a source of division is a powerful reframing technique. It encourages a united approach to managing the disorder’s impact on the relationship.

Enhancing Connection and Understanding

Through guided conversations, the therapy helps deepen the emotional connection. The partner with OCD explores and expresses their deeper fears, while the other partner learns to articulate their emotional experiences, leading to a strengthened bond.

Promoting Acceptance and Building New Patterns

Accepting the presence of OCD in relationship while working on effective management strategies is a delicate but necessary balance. The therapist works with the couple to develop new responses to OCD symptoms that foster connection rather than disconnection.

Consolidating Gains

Therapeutic progress is solidified by experiencing and discussing new ways of interacting outside of therapy sessions. This step is crucial for ensuring that the relationship continues to grow stronger, even in the face of OCD.

Collaborative Approach with Individual Therapy

A collaborative approach, involving coordination with the partner’s individual OCD treatment, ensures that therapy addresses both the couple’s relationship dynamics and the individual’s OCD management.


The OCD Symposium in Reno served as a valuable forum for discussing the integration of attachment theory into the treatment of OCD-affected relationships. Emotionally Focused Therapy offers a framework for couples to navigate OCD’s challenges, emphasizing the importance of a secure emotional bond and effective communication.

Here’s how EFT could be effective for couples where one or both partners have OCD:

  1. Improving Communication: EFT helps couples communicate more effectively, especially about sensitive issues like the impact of OCD on their relationship. It encourages partners to express their feelings and needs more openly and empathetically.
  2. Enhancing Emotional Support: By focusing on emotional attachment, EFT helps partners become more responsive to each other’s needs. For someone with OCD, having a supportive partner who understands their struggles can be crucial for managing symptoms.
  3. Reducing Relationship Stress: OCD can add significant stress to a relationship, which can exacerbate OCD symptoms. EFT aims to reduce relationship tensions by improving emotional connection, which can, in turn, create a more supportive environment for managing OCD.
  4. Building a Secure Attachment: A secure attachment can provide a solid foundation for individuals with OCD to face their fears and engage in exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapies more effectively. Knowing they have a supportive and understanding partner can make facing OCD challenges less daunting.
  5. Improving Coping Strategies: Couples can learn to identify and modify maladaptive coping strategies that may be reinforcing OCD symptoms. EFT encourages healthier ways of coping with emotional distress, which can indirectly help in managing OCD.
  6. Enhancing Treatment Compliance: Individuals with OCD who feel supported in their relationships may be more likely to adhere to individual OCD treatment plans, including medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Closing thoughts about OCD and Relationship

It’s important to note that while EFT can improve the relationship dynamics that affect and are affected by OCD, it does not directly treat OCD symptoms. For direct treatment of OCD, evidence-based approaches such as CBT and ERP are recommended. Couples therapy, including EFT, can be a complementary approach to these treatments, especially for addressing the relational aspects of living with OCD.

The journey towards understanding and managing the relational impact of OCD is ongoing. As we continue to explore this intersection, the insights gained can guide more nuanced and effective approaches to support couples in strengthening their relationships in the face of OCD.

Feedback and dialogue on this topic of OCD in relationship are welcome. Please share your thoughts or experiences regarding the role of attachment theory in OCD treatment. For further discussion or inquiries, feel free to contact me at:

“Cooling the Flames: De-escalating Arguments in Love”

De-escalating Arguments in Love, cooling the flames of couple conflict
handling couple conflict

Strategies for Handling Arguments in Relationship


As an experienced, certified Emotionally Focused Therapist (EFT) couple therapist, I’ve spent years helping couples navigate the complex tides of their relationships. I’ve realized that one of the most common challenges couples face is handling relationship conflict, i.e. managing and de-escalating the arguments we all experience. In what follows, I want to share with you some insights and strategies from my clinical world that can help turn heated arguments into opportunities for deeper connection and understanding.

Understanding Conflict Through an EFT Lens

The EFT Perspective on Relationship Conflicts

In Emotionally Focused Therapy, we see conflicts not just as clashes of words or wills, but as expressions of deeper emotional needs and fears. Often, what starts as a minor disagreement can quickly escalate into a full-blown argument when underlying attachment needs are not met.

I recall a couple, let’s call them Gretchen and Walt, who came to me struggling with frequent, intense arguments in areas ranging from finance and parenting to which grandparents’ house they would visit first over the holidays. Through EFT, they learned that their conflicts weren’t really about the chores or the finances; they were about seeking emotional safety and connection. Gretchen and Walt each wanted to know they were taken in by one another.

Emotional Awareness and Regulation

The first step in de-escalating arguments is understanding and regulating your own emotions. It’s about recognizing the signs of emotional escalation within yourself. This awareness creates a pause, allowing you to choose a more constructive response.

For instance, when Gretchen felt unheard, she learned to express her feelings without blaming Walt, saying things like, “I feel worried and a bit afraid when we don’t talk about our finances.” This shift in communication made a huge difference.

Communicating Effectively in the Heat of the Moment

Communication Techniques for De-escalation

Effective communication during an argument is key. In EFT, we focus on expressing underlying emotions and needs without attacking the other person.

A technique colleagues and I often recommend is the ‘softened start-up’. Instead of beginning a conversation with criticism or contempt, start with a statement that opens the door for understanding. For example, “I feel stressed about our schedule and need to talk about it,” is more likely to elicit a positive response than, “You never make time for us.” Granted, this can be hard to do when you lack confidence (haven’t had the experience) that your partner will be receptive to your softened message. A well-trained EFT therapist will help you understand and overcome this block to softened messages.

Step-by-Step Guide to De-escalating an Argument

Here’s a simple guide to follow when you feel an argument escalating:

  1. Pause and Breathe: Take a moment to breathe and step back from the heat of the moment.
  2. Reflect on Your Feelings: Ask yourself what you’re really feeling and why.
  3. Communicate Your Emotional Needs: Share these feelings with your partner in a non-confrontational way.

Creating the Right Environment for Healthy Conflicts

Timing and Environment Considerations

The setting in which you address conflicts is crucial. Avoid starting difficult conversations when either of you is tired, stressed, or distracted. Choose a time and place where you both feel comfortable and are less likely to be interrupted.

Foundations for Resilient Relationships

Building Healthy Conflict Resolution Foundations

To build a relationship that withstands the storms of conflict, regular emotional check-ins are vital. These create a space for discussing feelings and needs outside of heated arguments. Understanding each other’s conflict styles and attachment needs is also crucial.

In my practice, I’ve seen couples transform their relationships by simply dedicating time each week to discuss their feelings and needs calmly and openly.

When to Seek Professional Help

When to Seek EFT Counseling

Recognizing when you need professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If arguments are becoming frequent and more intense, or if you find yourselves stuck in the same patterns, it might be time to seek EFT counseling. This can provide a safe space to explore deeper emotional issues and learn effective strategies for managing conflicts.

The Journey of Change

Sustaining Change with EFT Principles

Implementing these strategies is a journey, not a one-time event. It requires patience, practice, and a willingness to be vulnerable. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and be patient with setbacks.


In conclusion, remember that every argument presents an opportunity for growth and deeper connection. By applying these strategies, you can turn conflicts into catalysts for strengthening your bond.

Keep in mind that love is not just about agreeing on everything; it’s about navigating disagreements in a way that enriches your relationship. Handling arguments in relationship is a path to deeper connection.

If my colleagues and I can help you on the path of connection that grows and flourishes, reach out to us for a free consultation. 775-235-2205

Additional Resources and Support

For those interested in exploring more about Emotionally Focused Therapy and relationship enhancement, there are numerous resources available. Books such as “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson, and websites like the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) offer valuable insights. Additionally, I’ll be hosting a series of workshops and webinars in the coming months, focusing on deepening emotional connections in relationships.

Attachment and Wellness

Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW discusses the relationship between healthy attachment and overall wellness

Podcast Interview: “Cultivating Healthy Bonds: Insights from Attachment Theory and Emotionally Focused Therapy”

Attachment and Wellness are Inseparable

Feeling connected and important to others is essential for our overall well-being. Simply put, attachment and wellness are inseparable. Therapists use Attachment theory and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a primary application of this theory, to provide significant insights into developing healthy connections.

What is Attachment Theory?

Attachment theory, initially developed by John Bowlby and furthered by Mary Ainsworth, posits that the bonds formed in early childhood have profound effects on our emotional development and interpersonal relationships throughout life. This theory has evolved to encompass adult relationships, recognizing that the need for secure attachments extends well beyond childhood. In therapy, understanding how individuals cope with feelings of disconnection, with threat to security – is key to addressing various emotional and relational challenges.

The Role of Emotionally Focused Therapy in Enhancing Relationship Bonds

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), an attachment-based model of treating couples families and individuals, is a short-term form of therapy that focuses on adult relationships and attachment/bonding. It helps individuals understand their emotional responses and patterns in relationships. EFT is a highly-effective, gold standard couples therapy. It encourages partners to express their emotions and needs more openly and empathetically, fostering stronger, more secure relational bonds.

The integration of attachment theory and EFT in therapeutic practices has proven instrumental in promoting mental wellness. By addressing the underlying attachment needs and emotional patterns, therapists can help individuals and couples develop healthier, more fulfilling relationships. This, in turn, contributes significantly to overall mental health and wellness.

Cornelius enjoys discussing the relationship of healthy interpersonal bonds to overall wellness, i.e. attachment and wellness, with Heather Haslem, the Senior Project Coordinator for Workforce Development at the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies (CASAT) at the University of Nevada, Reno. Heather trained at Duke University as an Integrative Health Coach. She is a National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC). Heather also brings expertise as a qualified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher and yoga instructor.

#attachment #emotionalwellness



Should We Do Relationship Counseling Now? Some signs that it might be time.

Should We Do Relationship Counseling Now?

There is a lot of high quality self-help available for distressed relationships. However, some of the difficult issues people in relationship face benefit most by professional help. The question, “should we do relationship counseling now?” comes up and isn’t always easy to answer. In this blog post, I explore seven key indicators that might suggest your relationship is facing challenges. Identifying these red flags early and getting effective relationship counseling can be the first step toward healing and rejuvenating your connection.

Growing a relationship is one of the most fulfilling aspects of life. It is a beautiful journey, but not without its fair share of peaks and valleys. While it’s normal for relationships to encounter rough patches, it’s crucial to recognize the warning signs when things take a downturn.

7 Signs Your Relationship May Be in Trouble

1. Diminished Priority on Quality Time Together

In the early stages of a relationship, the thrill of spending quality time together is often incomparable. However, if you find yourselves gradually drifting apart due to other commitments or distractions, it’s worth taking a closer look at the health of your relationship. To be clear, life has a way of keeping us busy, but a consistent decline in the time spent together could be an indication of fading interest in nurturing your bond. That said, it’s crucial to differentiate between evolving priorities and emotional detachment.

2. Communication Becomes Stagnant or Scarce

Effective communication is the lifeblood of a thriving relationship. When your conversations start feeling repetitive, mundane, or infrequent, it may be a sign of diminishing emotional intimacy and connection.

3. Negative and Minimal Communication

Meaningful communication should uplift and strengthen your relationship. If your interactions are marred by negativity, frequent arguments, or criticism, it can slowly erode the trust and harmony in your partnership.

4. Conflict Breeds Resentment Instead of Resolution

Every relationship experiences conflicts, but they should serve as opportunities for growth and resolution. When disagreements persist without resolution and lead to lingering resentment, it’s an indicator of deeper issues within your relationship.

5. One Partner Voices Concerns

Often, one partner may sense trouble in the relationship before the other. If your partner expresses concerns or dissatisfaction, it’s crucial to take their feelings seriously and initiate an open and honest conversation. This is another factor in answering, “should we do relationship counseling now?”

6. One Partner Shows Reluctance to Listen

Effective communication involves active listening from both partners. When one partner consistently dismisses the other’s thoughts and feelings without a willingness to engage, it can lead to frustration and emotional distance.

7. Criticism of Differences Instead of Embracing Them

Our unique qualities and quirks are what make us individuals. When these differences are met with criticism rather than celebration, it can poison the atmosphere in your relationship. There are reasons this begins to happen in relationship and a well-trained, attachment focused therapist can help you understand and overcome.


Healthy relationships require nurturing, communication, and mutual effort. Determining when it is time to seek relationship counseling isn’t always easy. Recognizing these warning signs that your relationship might be encountering challenges is the first step toward addressing any underlying issues and rekindling the flame of love. If you identify with any of these signs, consider seeking professional guidance and at the least, engaging in a sincere conversation with your partner about your concerns. Relationship counseling like EFT can get you back on the path of connection. Remember, with dedication and mutual support, many relationships can overcome obstacles and emerge stronger than ever before.