Emotionally Focused Therapy with African American Couples with Dr. Paul Guillory | POP 824

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A photo of Dr. Paul Guillory is captured. He is an author, trainer, and associate professor. Dr. Guillory is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Do you work with marginalized clients or couples? How can you deepen your approach to complex and nuanced topics like racial identity in therapy? Where do you come to understand more about culture and its impact on people?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about emotionally focused therapy with African American Couples with Dr. Paul Guillory.

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Meet Dr. Paul Guillory

A photo of Dr. Paul Guillory is captured. He is an author, trainer, and associate professor. Dr. Guillory is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Dr. Guillory is an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the Clinical Science Psychology Department and is a certified trainer & supervisor in Emotionally Focused Therapy. He is also the author of Emotionally Focused Therapy with African American Couples: Love Heals. In addition, he has produced several online training videotapes that demonstrate integrating attachment and culture in therapy.

Visit Dr. Guillory’s website and connect on LinkedIn.

In This Podcast

  • What is EFT?
  • Where do you learn about culture?
  • Dr. Guillory’s tips for therapists on using EFT with couples
  • Dr. Guillory’s advice for private practitioners

What is EFT?

EFT stands for emotionally focused therapy because it emphasizes the emotional experience of the person or the couple, and in particular, the attachment experience that is embedded in the emotional experience.

There’s a broader view of emotional experience that EFT has that includes thoughts, perceptions, meaning-making, and somatic experiences. So, we’re tracking and trying to gain depth in all of those with an attachment over[view].

Dr. Guillory

EFT looks at the problem while observing the emotional attachments and patterns that arise between the couple as they go through the issue.

Where do you learn about culture?

Too often the idea is that if you are a black, white, Asian clinician … you learn about culture from the people in front of you. The problem with that is that, well, we’re not experts in our own culture!

Dr. Guillory

The expectation shouldn’t be on the client to be the full authority on what it feels like to be a part of their culture.

Of course, they bring lived valuable experience, however, the clinician who works with the client should also pursue education and studies to understand what connects the culture’s people as a whole. 

Dr. Guillory’s tips for therapists on using EFT with couples

1 – Race is not a category

When we treat race as a category … and then we go on to process their information as if that tells us something. The racial identity is multifaceted and multidimensional.

Dr. Guillory

2 – Spend time asking clients about their racial identity

It’s a lot of grey areas, that people can be black in so many different ways and have different securities around when race shows up both from a context of where they live or go to school, but also between two black people who identify being black in the therapy session, and that has an impact in the way they interact with each other.

Dr. Guillory

3 – Ask clients questions to help them – and you – locate themselves

  • What does your ethnicity mean to you?
  • Have you experienced any discrimination or racism in your life?
  • Did your parents experience any discrimination or racism in their lives?

4 – Pursue your own education. Develop your understanding of the complexities by continuing to study and work with clients. Build your archive to draw from.

Dr. Guillory’s advice to private practitioners

Allow yourself to become lost in the moment in session with the client. When the clients mimic this experience, it’s been a good session! Be there in the moment with them because it allows you to enjoy it and for them to experience your focused attention.

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Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

Podcast Transcription

[JOE SANOK] We brought together all of our checklists, videos, and other free things in one spot, so you don’t have to opt in all over the place just to get another checklist. We’ve put it all together over at pillarsofpractice.com. Whether you’re just getting started or have an established group therapy practice, we have a free e-course for you. As well, we have eight-minute experts, which are short eight-minute videos around specific topics, completely free. So if you want to take your practice to the next level, head on over to pillarsofpractice.com to get access to our free e-courses. Again, that’s pillarsofpractice.com to get all of those free e-courses. This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 824. Well, I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. I hope you are doing great today. we cover all things around private practice here, starting growing, scaling, and today is American Thanksgiving, so I hope that you are having a great day with your family. Maybe you’re listening to this on Black Friday or Cyber Monday or throughout the weekend, or maybe on Thanksgiving you’re taking a little break from your family just to listen to the show. Either way, really glad that you are here with us today. We have some great episodes coming up throughout November and December, and throughout this month, we’ve had some just incredible episodes. We’ve talked about whether your business mind has to conflict with your clinical mind. We just talked with Dr. Bai about that. Then before that, we talked about why leaders fail in business and what you can do about it. We’ve talked about selling. We’ve talked about highly sensitive people. We’ve talked about a lady who moved into Guatemala’s garbage dumps to help the people living there, so interesting stories, interesting thinking all sorts of stuff this month that has just been all over the map in some ways, but in a lot of ways it’s just the human experience in trying to become better clinicians and better business owners. If you ever need help, we have a free e-course over at pillarsofpractice.com. If you’re just getting started, we have a free course for you. If you’re growing your practice, you can check that out as well. There’s all sorts of training, videos, checklists, things that’ll keep you organized as you look at growing your practice. [JOE] Well, today I am so excited to have Dr. Paul Guillory. Dr. Guillory is an associate professor at the University of California Berkeley in the Clinical Science Psychology Department. He’s a certified trainer and supervisor for Emotionally Focused Therapy, and he’s the author of Emotionally Focused Therapy with African American Couples, Love Heels. He has produced several online training tapes and demonstrates integrating attachment and Culture in therapy. Dr. Guillory, welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. [DR. PAUL GUILLORY] Well, thank you for inviting me. I’m delighted to be here. [JOE] Yes, well, I’m really excited about this new book, and we’ll get into that but would love to hear your story of how did you get into Emotionally Focused Therapy? How did that become something that you’ve really dug into? [DR. PAUL] Well, I went to a workshop of John Gottman up in Seattle, and he said a lot of good things about Sue Johnson. When I came home from that, my partner, who was also a psychologist had just finished her book. It was on our coffee table, and I said, that’s the woman that Gottman was talking about. So I read her book, we agreed to go to Ottawa. This was in maybe ’07 and I said, oh my God, this woman is good. Now, I didn’t know why she was good, but at the time I was a sports psychologist. I was working with the Oakland Raiders, and I was using guided imagery and some self-hypnosis as part of my work with athletes. When I heard Sue’s voice, I knew she, it was like she was doing guided something about it, struck me as she’s doing guided imagery, but she’s not doing that. She’s doing something that’s really interesting and unique, and I have been learning from her ever since. It’s the sort of thing when you see a great athlete in sports, you just know it and you don’t know why they’re a great athlete, but you know it when you see it. I knew that when I saw Sue’s work. I’ve come to learn a lot about what she does. It’s a lot of focus on technique, and I’ve been a lifelong learner in doing psychotherapy. So I’ve sort of just taken on the learning practice and in that regard, EFT as a model has really developed my practice, but in the sense that people respect the model, they look for people who are trained in EFT and so I’ve from what I was doing, I’ve been completely converted to being a EFT therapist, supervisor and trainer. [JOE] Now, for those that maybe they studied EFT in grad school or they’ve just heard of it, but never dug in and I know we’re taking like gigantic body of work and just distilling it down to something more simple than it is, what would be some of the main just teachings of EFT just for people so that we can at least be somewhat on the same page as we enter into the next part of this conversation, what are some of the basics of EFT that are important for people to know? [DR. PAUL] Well, it’s called Emotionally Focused Therapy for a reason. So we’re focused on the emotional experience, but in particular the attachment experience that is embedded in the emotional experience of the couple. There’s a particular broader view of emotional experience that EFT has that includes thoughts and perceptions and meaning-making and somatic experiences. We’re tracking and trying to gain depth in all of those with a sort of attachment over frame and so all of our work is designed within sessions to be sort of processing the substitutes, if you will, or the variety of emotional experience. So when that couples come in and they’re particularly presenting problems, we’re listening to, of course, an honoring the presenting problem, but we’re also looking for the pattern of emotional experience between the two of them. We also often refer to that as the cycle or their pattern of interaction, which is often in the beginning reactive to each other. Our work is to slow that process down so we can understand it better as clinicians, but also for the couple to understand it. That takes a lot of skill practice to do that because the couple is largely concerned with the content of their emotional experience and what’s happening in the interaction between them and each other. We are too, but we’re also interested in slowing it down so that we can get a better feel for the what’s happening inside greater depth to that and that takes time to do and take skill and practice. We often call that in some ways the moves we do within the session largely based on a focus on the emotions, but it’s, we’re leaning toward greater and greater depth of emotionally corrective experience between the people. Then we’re doing individual work Emotionally Focused Therapy. It’s often a very similar process, but we don’t have the person there but we do have the, each client brings their own attachment experiences to their representation, their experience of people in their lives either past, current or sometimes it can be stressed about future. So the two things to summarize, attachment and the emotional experience. [JOE] Thank you for that, because sometimes you’ll learn stuff in grad school and you don’t remember it all. So it’s good to just make sure that at least the listeners are somewhat on the same page entering in. Well, I’d love to really dig into specifically around the research you’ve done and your book, Emotionally Focused Therapy with African American Couples. Where should we start with this conversation? Does it make sense to start with the research or some case examples? For you, where’s the best starting point around where to kick off this conversation around your book? [DR. PAUL] Well, we start with the research and it’s largely a lot of prior scholars work that remains invisible to our clinical populations, whether it’s clinical professors, clinical supervisors, and therapists. These are people like, particularly in terms of working with black couples that these invisible people or scholars like Elaine Penda Hughes, Nancy Boyd Franklin, Shalanda Kelly, Kenneth Hardy, these are people who have written about black couples, but rarely show up in discussions about the particulars, unique aspects of working with black couples. I could add to that list, people like William Cross and Janet Helms and Thomas Perham. I mean, all of this is like a body, if you will, of knowledge and wisdom that guides like thinking about and understanding the experiences of African Americans. Too often the idea is, well, if you are black, white, Asian clinician or any other ethnicity that you learn about culture from the people in front of you. Now, the problem with that is that, well, we’re not experts in our own culture, unless somehow, we study that. So this is why in some universities, we have African-American studies, we have Asian-American studies, we have Latino-American studies and so on. So there are ways we begin to learn about culture, but we shouldn’t expect any given client to know that. They may know some of their cultural heritage and may have issues with it as they’re either at some level acculturating to American culture or acculturating to their own, and having their own creative combining of of that in some multicultural sort of orientation but we shouldn’t expect people to be experts in that. So it does require for us as clinicians some learning. Now, it is true, I think that a lot of our younger clinicians are coming out of grad school with some degree of learning classes that they’ve taken in diversity, all too often, only one class though. In that one class it tends to be an edited textbook that would have like 20 chapters and chapter seven might be about African-American clients, chapter six would be Asian-American clients and all of them have a certain format, 20 pages, 18 pages or so of context about culture, sort of learning about the particular culture and things to know, and then maybe two paragraphs on clinical implications. Each book on diversity or multiculturalism is pretty much the same. So it’s the same couple of paragraphs about clinical implications. Now, for us as clinicians, I mean, if it’s 20 pages on clinical implications, we learn if it’s too, and it’s always the same too, or so, there’s nothing new and so often if we happen to find ourselves working with a particular population, there’s really little, very little body of clinical work to draw on that helps guide the clinician to sort of take whatever the 18 pages of context and then guide, help you guide your work. How do you languish something in terms of if we called it racism, how do you languish the impact that that may have on your particular client? How do you relate that to the presenting problem? It can be related. Go ahead. You had a question? [JOE] Yes, I would love to dig into maybe a handful of the big takeaways from the book that you would want therapists to implement when they’re using EFT with African-American couples. What are just like a handful of the big takeaways that the research or case examples give for just things that people can apply maybe even today? [DR. PAUL] Okay, the first is that race is not a category. So in our clinical presentations, we tend to say black client, and then we go on to, or the husband’s black, the wife is Chinese, and we go on to other clinical material. That really doesn’t tell us anything about the racial identity of the clients. When we treat race as a category, we’re only, and then we go on to process their information as if that tells us something. So the racial identity is multifaceted and is multi-dimensional, and it helps for us to spend some time asking people about their racial identity. Just like we know attachment exists as a scientific, well-proven phenomena between human beings. It’s part of the essence of being a human being. So we do find ways to ask questions about attachment and to explore the insecurity, the security of the attachment bond, let’s say, between a couple, or that within an individual’s sort of working model of how they think about their attachments and whether they’re secure about it or not. I suggest we could use the same framework for thinking about racial identity in terms of flexibility and rigidity, security or insecurity, but we have to have some idea of that. It’s a lot of gray areas that people can be black in so many different ways and have different securities around when race shows up, both from the context in which they live, work, and go to school, but also between two black people who identify being black in therapy session, and that that has an impact on the way they interact with each other. [HEARD] It’s never too early to start thinking about tax season. Heard is the financial back office built specifically for therapists in private practice. They combine smart software with real humans to help you manage your bookkeeping, taxes and payroll. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned clinician or are in the first year of private practice, Heard will identify areas of growth and streamline best financial practices for your business. When you sign up with Heard, you’ll connect your bank accounts so your transactions will automatically be pulled in and categorized. My favorite thing about Heard is their allocation guide, what helps you decide how much to pay yourself each month and how much to set aside for taxes. You’ll also receive financial insights such as profit and loss statements and personalized monthly reports. You can say goodbye to pouring over spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments. Focus on your clients and Heard will take care of the rest. Heard always has transparent pricing with no hidden fees. Sign up for a free 15-minute consult call today at joinheard.com/partners/joe. Again, that’s joinheard, like I heard it, not like a herd of cattle, joinheard.com/partners/joe. [JOE SANOK] What are some questions you would recommend asking to get into that nuance to be able to reveal that cultural identity all of those different things you just listed? Are there a couple questions that you’d recommend in an intake to reveal that? [DR. PAUL] Well, one, there is a concept of locating oneself, and that you talk about like your social contextual sort of self as a therapist. I think that’s important, but when it occurs, it’s important too. I ask questions about attachment, which might be, tell me something about your relationship with your parents. That comes from the adult attachment interview and then you just use follow up questions to understand the relationship between the person you’re, the adult you’re talking to when they were very young so you try to focus there. I also, after asking attachment related questions, which drives a person deep in terms of their feelings about their parents and how they were raised, and often with bipolar people, it dives into themselves also about their identity as a particular ethnic group. Aside from that though, I ask, do you identify in some particular way as African-American, help me understand what that means to you, would be a typical question. Have you experienced any discrimination in your life or racism in your life? Did your parents experience that in any particular way and what follow up questions to have them help me understand. So I think by, what I try to do is combine attachment related questions like, have you ever been rejected as a child? That could get you into like parents having rejected the person for some reason, or it gets people into experiences where teachers and ministers and neighbors rejected them for some particular reasons, or other family members around their particular color. Darker tends to be viewed as more negative and lighter tends to be viewed as more positive, but they will tell you about these things if you ask them about that. So those are some of the questions that come to my mind. [JOE] So you had said first race is not a category, and then we dove into some of those questions, what else would be a big takeaway you’d want people to implement from the book? [DR. PAUL] Well, one is the idea of learning. Two is the idea of having the experience working with a diverse group of people from different, within a culture or different cultures. So that when we talk about like, cultural influences, it’s not based on one or two examples. We say, well, this one couple that I saw said this about working with African-Americans. When we begin to talk about it, we realized that there’s been a lot of misinformation about African-Americans, a lot of silence about that, and talking about race in general is radioactive with people. It’s like, for some it’s wanting to be real and these are real problems and that gets to like what the literature has said that African-American couples can be more intense in their negative cycle. But it’s also knowing how that shows up with different kinds of couples and in different kinds of ways, so that when we, it’s not that I’m a black psychologist that makes me an expert in that, but it’s, I like read about it. I’ve tried to write about it. I work with African-American couples, and so I’m always tentative because of the misinformation. It’s like, these are some things I would want people to consider, that racism is out in the world, but it’s also in our consulting room and the appraisals that people make about certain behaviors related to African-Americans. I got to be in search of that and be able to name it in some way that helps them emotionally correct those damaging appraisals that might be in my consulting room. Lastly, he’s like, I got to do my own work as a therapist, always working on my own biases, always working on how that impacts me and noting my own reactivity to certain kinds of discussions. There’s an idea in among, an old idea, but it’s probably still prevalent today about like a paper bag, so that if a black woman is darker than a lunch bag, then she’s unattractive. These are old colors ideas that are out there. I got to pay attention to that in myself and my own. If someone is expressing that, do I have a harsh reaction to that, adopting that colorism stance? Or can I find ways that I can accept that, understand how it’s been influenced by 400 years of propaganda, but not to let that get in the way of my connecting with this black man, for example, who might say that, or a black woman who might say that? Certainly, on the other end of that too, that just paying attention to my own barometers, my own personal experiences of those matters. So I emphasize the idea of cultural humility, but it has three aspects, gaining knowledge, having experience, and then paying attention to our own growth of, as a therapist on these very sensitive topics that involve race and my work with couples that involve conflicts and judgments about each other. [JOE] Oh, that’s awesome. I’m wondering for you personally with your clinical work or the way that you view therapy, how has writing this book changed how you approach therapeutic setting, like how did you used to do therapy and what’s changed or shifted for you personally based on the research you’ve done in putting this book together? [DR. PAUL] Well, it’s made me, I think, one more humble about recognizing that there, it’s still such scarcity of clinical information that my work really is like a beginning and that it needs the voices of others to make better. Some of that comes from like just clinical communities so I’m trying to develop that to be a part of that, but also recognizing the limitations that a lot of black psychologists, black social workers, black marriage and family therapists have done the work that I do all independent. So I’m not giving, I’m not offering them anything that they don’t know, but it’s like to advance my work, I have to engage them, if that makes sense. They have to engage them in a way that I learn from them and they learn from me and it’s like we make better jazz by playing with more players. So my book was really like a beacon to say, can I have more players to play with so I get better as a therapist? [JOE] I love hearing the personal side when people write books or do research or even just go into new projects because yes, we can talk theory, we can talk the application, that’s all wonderful, but that personal transformation and growth in researchers and professors and clinicians I mean, that’s the real change also in you. So that’s great. The last question I always ask is, if every private practitioner in the world were listening, what would you want them to know? [DR. PAUL] I think what EFT has given me is this ability to focus so that the hour or 90 minutes goes by so quickly, I am lost in each when it’s working, and it works a lot now that I am lost in therapy, if you will. I’m in the moment, and before I know it, the time is expired. I feel like when my clients say the same thing, I just think that has been a good session. I can’t always remember at the moment what makes it a good session, but when I do recordings, I think, yes, I’m just there in the moment. I’m just there with them, and I find that, I just find that so enjoyable and I just feel like this is what I was meant to do. [JOE] How amazing. Isn’t that what we all want in our work? Dr. Guillory, if people want to get your book, if they want to connect with you more, what’s the best place, where’s the best place to send them? [DR. PAUL] Well, to my website paultguilloryphd.com. [JOE] Awesome. We’ll have a link to that in the show notes. Dr. Guillory, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast. [DR. PAUL] Thank you for inviting me. It’s a lot of fun. Thank you. [JOE] I love having, I almost said sessions, I love having conversations like this where we dig in and dive in to clinical issues, as well as other issues, just that idea that someone can be a great professor and a researcher and author, and that Dr. Guillory is still learning, he still has that curiosity. That’s what I hope you find from this podcast. I mean, that’s why I interviewed my friend Jacob a few episodes ago about the book he wrote about his friend that moved into the trash dumps of Guatemala. To me, what we’re doing isn’t just about growing a business and making money. Yes, we want to serve people in the mental health industry, but when it comes down to it’s being better humans. It’s us living the human experience, helping other people live the human experience and having sustainable businesses that mirror the values that we want to have. So I just love how in this show, I get to interview people from all over the spectrum in regards to business and marketing and life things and research. If you have ideas for me as to guests that you’d like to introduce me to, or even just guests you’d like us to reach out to, you can always just email me, [email protected]. We’d love to chat with you if you have ideas or connections. Also we couldn’t do this show without our amazing sponsors. Whether you’re a seasoned clinician or it’s your first year of business Heard will identify areas of growth and streamline the best financial practices for your business. When you sign up with Heard, you’ll be matched with an accountant that’s going to help you track your income and expenses, file your taxes, and maximize your tax savings. You can say goodbye to all those spreadsheets and guessing your tax deductions or quarterly payments, and you can just focus on your clients and Heard will take care of the rest. Pricing begins at $149 per month for solo practices and can easily be tailored to fit your businesses financial needs. You can sign up for a free 15-minute call just to see if they’re a fit. Head on over to www.joinheard.com/partners/joe. Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day. I’ll talk to you soon. Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the producers, the publishers, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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