Lockdown Love Survival Guide – Expert: Jennifer Barbera
Tell us about yourself and your work
I am a registered clinical and counselling psychologist in Hamilton Ontario. I have been in the counselling field since 1999, and a psychologist since 2013. I work with individuals and couples. My website is: www.findinnercalm.ca
What would you say makes your dating/relationship expertise unique?
My approach is unique because i avoid a ‘one size fits all approach’ to couples counselling and I use a combination of CBT (Cognitive behaviour therapy), ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, EFT (Emotion-focused Therapy) and IFS (Internal Family systems). In particular, I often help couples explore how they trigger emotional parts of themselves and their resulting ‘part activation sequence’.
For instance, one rather might make a critical comment and trigger exiled or old feelings of ‘not good enough’ in the other person, which may trigger a protective part in that person such as a hostile or angry part of themselves or a part that numbs with alcohol or eating, shopping etc. This may then trigger a shutting down or withdrawing or numbing part in the other person. The same sequences tends to repeat over and over in each relationship.
I teach couples how to notice and speak for emotional parts of themselves (e..g, “a part of me feels resentful) without speaking fully from that part where they fully feel the feelings and can only see things from that part’s perspective .
With so many people unable to see their other half during lockdown, what three things would you give to those in a relationship to help them get through this tough time?
I would offer the three tips below to help long-distance couples keep their relationships fresh and exciting during lockdown.
- The website: https://holdmetightonline.com Which uses an emotion-focused approach to help partners notice their negative conflict cycle when it arises so that they can ‘unhook’ from that repeating cycle.
This approach also helps each partner to see the more vulnerable emotions (e..g, hurt, sadness, fear) underlying surface emotions such as anger. Getting in touch with these more vulnerable emotions, instead of staying caught up in anger and frustration, helps to strengthen the couples bond and calms conflict.
- A book called “Hold me Tight” by Sue Johnson. Available on audiobook, and for free with a 30 day trial at: https://www.audiobooks.com/audiobook/hold-me-tight-seven-conversations-for-a-lifetime-of-love/410861
This book focuses on helping couples to strengthen their connection and bond together and listening to the book can be a good bedtime routine.
- Advice: i) schedule time (at least 30 minutes) each week to connect one-on-one together and check-in about how things are going in the relationship. That means talking about potential difficulties at a neutral time, instead of being reactionary. ii) keep a book or journal on the counter and take turns writing in the book what you each appreciate about each other and iii) name 3 things you can each do more of to move towards being the kind of partner you truly want to be or the kind of relationship you want to have and look at the list each and every day.