EMDR Therapy: How it Works

EMDR Therapy: How it Works

When life’s hardships weigh heavily on our minds, finding a way to heal and move forward is crucial.

One modality that has been gaining popularity lately is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

In this article, we’ll explore EMDR therapy in simple terms, share real-life stories to show how it can help regular people overcome various challenges, delve into its applications, and outline its history and the science behind it.


What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy can be thought of similar to a guide that helps us deal with difficult memories and feelings. Imagine it as a process divided into steps:

1. Talking and Planning: You and your therapist chat about your past and what’s troubling you. Together, you decide which memories to work on.

2. Getting Ready: Your therapist teaches you ways to manage stress and keep calm during therapy.

3. Memory Time: You think about a tough memory while your therapist helps you focus on it. You might follow their hand moving back and forth, or you could listen to sounds that go from one ear to the other.

4. Processing Feelings: This is when the magic happens. You’ll explore your feelings and thoughts linked to that memory. It’s like sorting through a messy closet and organizing everything.

5. New Thoughts: You learn to replace old, negative thoughts with new, positive ones. It’s like switching a dim light for a bright one.

6. Feeling Better: After the session, you should feel more relaxed and lighter, like you’ve put down a heavy backpack.

7. Checking In: You and your therapist keep an eye on your progress and make sure you’re doing better.

Real-Life Stories: How EMDR Can Help

Let’s look at some everyday situations where EMDR therapy has made a real difference:

1. Overcoming a Car Accident Trauma:

  • Samantha’s Story: Samantha had a traumatising car accident that left her feeling anxious every time she sat in a car. EMDR therapy helped her process the frightening memory and regain her confidence on the road.

2. Conquering a Fear of Heights:

  • David’s Story: David had a fear of heights that made him avoid tall buildings and bridges. With EMDR therapy, he faced his fear step by step, letting go of the anxiety that had held him back for years.

3. Finding Hope After a Tough Loss:

  • Emma’s Story: Emma lost her beloved pet, and the grief was overwhelming. EMDR therapy helped her cope with the sadness and remember the happy moments she shared with her furry friend.

4. Easing Social Anxiety:

  • Michael’s Story: Michael always felt anxious in social situations. He tried EMDR therapy to explore why he felt this way and develop new, more positive thoughts. Gradually, he started feeling more at ease in social gatherings.

5. Healing from a Painful Divorce:

  • Lisa’s Story: Going through a divorce was one of the hardest things Lisa had ever faced. EMDR therapy gave her the tools to process the emotional pain, allowing her to move forward and build a new life.

Whether it’s a traumatic memory, a deep fear, or overwhelming sadness, EMDR therapy can be a tool to help regular people like Samantha, David, Emma, Michael, and Lisa find hope, face their fears, and move forward in life.

A Look into EMDR’s Past

When it comes to innovative therapies, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) stands out as a transformative approach that has helped countless individuals. But how did EMDR come into existence, and what is the history behind this therapeutic technique?

The Serendipitous Discovery

EMDR’s journey began in the late 1980s when Dr. Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, took a leisurely stroll in a park. As she walked, she noticed something remarkable. Her distressing thoughts seemed to ease as her eyes moved naturally from side to side while observing her surroundings. Intrigued by this phenomenon, Dr. Shapiro, with her background in psychology started to investigate further.

The Birth of EMDR

Dr. Francine Shapiro’s observations in the park led to the development of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In 1987, she introduced this novel therapeutic approach to the world by publishing an article in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. This article marked the inception of EMDR as a legitimate psychotherapeutic method.

The Eight-Phase Protocol

One of the defining features of EMDR is its structured eight-phase protocol. Dr. Shapiro outlined these phases to guide therapists and clients through the EMDR process. These phases are:

  1. History-Taking and Treatment Planning: This initial phase involves gathering information about the client’s history and identifying target issues to address in therapy.
  2. Preparation: Clients learn techniques to manage distress and anxiety while building trust with their therapist.
  3. Assessment: The therapist helps clients identify specific memories to target in EMDR sessions.
  4. Desensitization: This is the heart of EMDR therapy. Clients focus on a distressing memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as following the therapist’s finger movements. This helps desensitize the memory’s emotional charge.
  5. Installation: Positive beliefs and emotions are installed to replace negative ones associated with the targeted memory.
  6. Body Scan: Clients learn to notice and alleviate any remaining physical tension or discomfort associated with the memory.
  7. Closure: The therapist ensures clients are emotionally stable before ending the session.
  8. Reevaluation: Clients and therapists assess progress and determine if additional sessions are needed.

EMDR’s Acceptance and Evolution

EMDR therapy was initially met with skepticism from some in the psychological community. However, over the years, a growing body of research and numerous success stories from clients and therapists alike have demonstrated its effectiveness. EMDR has gained recognition and acceptance as a valuable tool in the treatment of trauma and related disorders.

Applications Beyond Trauma

While EMDR’s origins lie in trauma therapy, its applications have expanded to address a wide range of psychological and emotional issues. Today, EMDR is used to treat not only Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but also anxiety disorders, phobias, depression, grief, and even performance-related challenges.

The Science Behind EMDR Therapy

Understanding the science behind EMDR therapy can shed light on why it works so well.

When we experience a traumatic event, the memory of that event gets stored differently in our brain, often leading to overwhelming emotions when we recall it. EMDR therapy helps rewire these memories and emotions.

1. Bilateral Stimulation: The back-and-forth eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation used in EMDR therapy mimic what happens during our natural Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep phase. During REM sleep, our brain processes and stores information. EMDR therapy essentially taps into this natural process, allowing us to process traumatic memories more effectively.

2. Memory Reconsolidation: EMDR therapy also taps into a process called memory reconsolidation. When you recall a memory during therapy, your brain becomes more flexible, allowing you to update and reorganize the memory with new, healthier thoughts and emotions. This is why EMDR therapy can help you replace negative beliefs with positive ones.

3. The Mind-Body Connection: EMDR therapy acknowledges the connection between our mind and body. Trauma often gets stored in our bodies as well as our minds, leading to physical symptoms like tension or pain. By addressing both the mental and physical aspects of trauma, EMDR therapy offers a more comprehensive healing approach.

EMDR therapy might sound complex, but it’s essentially designed to work as a companion guiding you through the shadows of challenging experiences towards a brighter future.


How to find an EMDR Therapist?

If you’re interested in trying EMDR therapy, it’s important to find a therapist who is specifically trained in EMDR methods.

We have Hart therapists who are trained and provide EMDR, so we’re happy to assist you finding one. Call us on 1300 830 552 or enquire here.

relationship counselling lesbian couple

Is Your Partner The Right One? The 48 Questions You Need To Ask…

We have developed this free, do-it-yourself couples’ questionnaire, specifically designed for couples wanting to future-proof their relationship, and determine their true compatibility. Backed by 20+ years of couples’ Psychology.

At The Hart Centre, our mission is to help people find their way back to love. And, with over 20,000 (and counting) couples’ we’ve helped, we like to think we know a thing or two about what determines a couples’ ability to go the distance.

Relationships have evolved in many wonderful ways, and marriage isn’t the only way to commit to one another anymore.

Many people decide to have children together but never get married, or, to buy a house first, or pack up and move to another country together.

All of these (and many more) acts of commitment are important, and should be valued.

If you’re looking to future proof your relationship and give it the best chance possible, we’ve adapted and consolidated the questionnaire previously named our ‘Pre-Marriage Program’, to now be available to everyone, free, for whichever type of commitment you may be facing.

Click here for the printable PDF version.

Maybe you’re considering…

  • Having children together
  • Moving in together
  • Moving away together
  • Getting married
  • Creating a blended family
  • Buying a house together
  • Just wanting peace of mind


How it works:

  1. Both yourself and your partner reads the questions, or consider printing out twice, so each person has a copy to fill in.
  2. Take some quiet time on your own to reflect on each of these aspects of your current expectations, assumptions, and future hopes and plans for you and your relationship.
  3. Once both people have completed their copy, set aside 1 hour to discuss your answers together.
  4. By the end of this conversation, you will have much more insight into your potential future together.

The Questionnaire:

Living Arrangements:

Who will do each of the household duties, and how will these be split between us?

Do we have similar expectations about tidiness and messiness?



What of our assets and income will be considered joint and what will be mine? And, how will each of us access these?

What debt or other financial commitments am I bringing into this relationship? Will these be shared or my sole responsibility?



How many children, if any, would I like to have? And, is there a specific timeline I’m committed to?

What is my style of parenting? (Authoritarian (you’ll do as I say), Democratic (let’s consider all views and be fair and reasonable) or Easy Going?

What gender roles do I want when it comes to who looks after the children, and to what extent is this a shared responsibility? (Is one person staying home with them, while one provides financially, are both providing equally?)

Do I want our children to be vaccinated?



What are my future plans for my job or career, and from a scale of 1 – 10, how important are those to me?


Extended Family:

How much contact do I want with both my family and my partners?

Do I have any problems with either of our extended families at the moment?

Do I have any concerns or hesitations with either of our extended families?


The Future:

What type of home do I want?

What are my preferred locations, and how open to moving in future am I?

What future plans do I have and how important are they in my life?

How willing am I to consider both my and my partner’s viewpoints and desires equally?



Do I have strong views about manners, swearing, honesty or other values I hold as important?

Do we have any major political, social or religious views that differ from each other?


Being Together:

Are there any personality differences that bother me about my partner?

How important is spending quality time with my partner to me? And, what does that look like for me?

Which way is most natural for me to show my love for my partner?

      • Physical Touch
      • Acts of Service (doing things for them, determining their needs)
      • Words of Affirmation (telling them how much you love them)
      • Buying Gifts
      • Spending Quality Time Together

In what way do I prefer it be shown the most?


Am I sexually attracted to my partner? And do I feel they’re attracted to me?

What is our agreed level of monogamy, and how committed to that am I?

Have I told my partner what I like and don’t like sexually?

Am I happy with how often we make love or have sex?

Who initiates sex? Am I happy about that or would I like it some other way?

What is the best way for my partner to seduce me / indicate they’d like to have sex?


Do I truly trust my partner to tell him /her anything?


Awareness and Growth:

How willing am I to look at, and improve upon my own behaviour patterns?

How willing is my partner to look at and improve upon their behaviour patterns?

What was my contribution to my last relationship ending?



Do I feel that my partner is completely honest with me?

Do I feel confident that we both can resolve and difficulty? How would we do that?

Do we both seek to understand where the other person is coming from?

When I am upset or struggling, how do I like my partner to show their support? (Giving me time alone, comforting me, helping me find solutions, etc.)

How do we bring up a disagreement? And, is there a better way they can bring up an issue with me?

What are especially difficult subjects for me, that I need my partner to be careful about?

Have I discussed any previous traumas with my partner? Am I comfortable doing so?

What are my personal boundaries that I need respected by my partner?

If I feel things are heading off track in our relationship, what are some ways I prefer we try to fix things?


Towards Commitment:

What type of commitment am I ultimately looking for from my partner? And do I have a timeline for this?

What are the things I love about my partner and what we have together?

What are the things I would like to see changed or improved?

Of these things, what do I need to see changed for me to fully commit to our relationship wholeheartedly?

Why is this relationship more special to me than any relationship prior?


Most Importantly:

What are my non-negotiables in the relationship? (E.g., I must have my office space to myself; I must be able to eat healthy foods)

How do I know I love him/her?


Best of luck with the above questions! Click here for the printable PDF version.

If you have any issues arise that you’d like help working through, you’re welcome to call us on 1300 830 552.

coercive control abuse

Unmasking Coercive Control in Relationships: Recognising the Warning Signs

In a perfect world, we would all be in healthy relationships, built on trust, respect, and mutual support.

However, unfortunately, not all relationships meet these criteria.

In some cases, people may find themselves trapped in a cycle of emotional abuse, known as coercive control. Coercive control is a subtle form of domestic abuse that doesn’t rely on physical violence but instead centres on manipulating and dominating a partner psychologically.

In this article, we will explore what coercive control in a relationship entails and delve into the warning signs that can help identify this subtle but dangerous form of abuse. We’ll also discuss strategies for breaking free from coercive control.


Defining Coercive Control

Coercive control refers to a pattern of behaviour that seeks to dominate, isolate, or intimidate a partner within an intimate relationship. It is characterised by a range of abusive tactics, all aimed at maintaining power and control over the victim. The most common tactics include:


  1. Isolation: Perpetrators of coercive control often attempt to isolate their victims from friends and family. They may employ tactics such as restricting access to social events, demanding constant attention, or accusing the victim’s loved ones of being detrimental to the relationship.


  1. Micro-management: Controlling every aspect of the victim’s life, from their daily routine to their finances, is a hallmark of coercive control. This control can extend to even the most personal decisions, leaving the victim feeling powerless.


  1. Emotional Abuse: Constant criticism, belittling, and humiliation are tools used to chip away at the victim’s self-esteem, making them feel dependent on the perpetrator for validation.


  1. Monitoring: Coercive controllers often invade the victim’s privacy, demanding access to their phone, email, or social media accounts. This invasion of personal space can leave the victim feeling constantly monitored and anxious.


  1. Threats and Intimidation: Perpetrators may use threats, both overt and subtle, to ensure compliance. These threats can range from physical harm to threats of abandonment, creating a climate of fear and uncertainty.


  1. Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where the abuser seeks to make the victim doubt their own reality, memory, or perceptions. It can be especially insidious, as it leaves the victim questioning their sanity.


  1. Financial Control: Some perpetrators maintain control by managing the victim’s finances or restricting their access to money, leaving the victim financially dependent.


Warning Signs of Coercive Control

Recognising coercive control can be challenging, as it often unfolds gradually. Here are some warning signs that might indicate you or someone you know is in a coercive control relationship:


  1. Excessive Isolation: If an individual becomes increasingly isolated from friends and family and seems to be losing their support network, it can be a red flag. The abuser may make derogatory comments about the victim’s loved ones, discourage contact with them, or create conflicts to isolate the victim further.


  1. Constant Surveillance: If someone’s partner is continually monitoring their whereabouts, online activities, and communication, it may signify an unhealthy level of control. This surveillance can include demanding to know the victim’s exact location, checking their phone and online messages, or tracking their social media activity.


  1. Emotional Manipulation: Frequent belittling, criticism, and attempts to erode the victim’s self-esteem may be an indication of coercive control. The victim may feel that they can never do anything right, constantly walking on eggshells to avoid their partner’s disapproval.


  1. Financial Dependence: When one partner controls all financial aspects of the relationship, it can be a form of coercion. This includes withholding access to money, forcing the victim to quit their job, or controlling all financial decisions. The victim may find themselves without resources to leave the relationship.


  1. Fear and Anxiety: If the victim lives in constant fear, walking on eggshells to avoid triggering their partner’s anger, it suggests an abusive dynamic. This anxiety can lead to physical and mental health problems and hinder the victim’s ability to make decisions independently.


  1. Inconsistent Behaviour: Perpetrators of coercive control often exhibit inconsistent behaviour, alternating between extreme kindness and cruelty, leaving the victim confused and disoriented. They may apologize and promise to change, only to revert to controlling and abusive behaviour shortly after.


  1. Blame Shifting: Coercive controllers often shift blame for their actions onto the victim, making them feel responsible for the abuser’s behaviour. The victim may find themselves apologizing for things that are not their fault, further eroding their self-esteem.


  1. Gaslighting: Recognising gaslighting can be difficult, but if someone consistently denies events or manipulates the victim’s perception of reality, it’s a clear sign of coercive control. Gaslighting is a tactic used to make the victim doubt their own memories and experiences, leading them to question their sanity.


  1. Alienation from Support Systems: Victims may find themselves estranged from family and friends as a result of their partner’s actions. This can include derogatory comments about loved ones or discouraging contact with them. The abuser may insist that the victim’s family and friends are a negative influence and that they are better off without them.


  1. Loss of Independence: Victims may have little control over their own lives, including decisions related to their appearance, career, or hobbies. The abuser may dictate the victim’s clothing choices, prevent them from pursuing their interests, or make all major decisions without their input.


Breaking Free from Coercive Control

If you recognise these signs in your own relationship or in someone you care about, it’s crucial to seek help and support. Breaking free from coercive control is a difficult and often dangerous process, but it is possible with the right strategies and support. Here are some steps to consider:


  1. Reach Out: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your situation. Support is crucial in breaking free from coercive control. Sharing your experiences with someone you trust can provide emotional validation and help you understand that you are not alone.


  1. Safety Planning: Develop a safety plan in case you need to leave the relationship quickly. This plan should include a safe place to go, financial resources, and important documents. A well-thought-out plan can help ensure your safety when you decide to leave.


  1. Legal Assistance: Consult with a legal expert to understand your rights and options. Depending on your situation, legal avenues such as restraining orders, child custody arrangements, and divorce may be necessary. A lawyer experienced in domestic abuse cases can guide you through the legal process.


  1. Therapy and Counselling: Seek therapy or counselling to address the emotional scars left by coercive control and rebuild self-esteem and independence. Therapists and counsellors who specialize in trauma and abuse can provide valuable support in healing and recovery. Our friendly receptionists are always happy to help victims find the right therapist to support them. You are welcome to contact us on 1300 830 552 or put in a confidential email enquiry here.


  1. Support Groups: Consider joining a support group for survivors of domestic abuse. Sharing experiences with others who have been through similar situations can be empowering. Support groups create a sense of community and understanding, allowing survivors to learn from each other’s experiences and strategies for healing. A few Australian support groups are Full Stop, Mission Australia and Reach Out.


  1. Contact Hotlines: The Australian hotline 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. This hotline is staffed by professionals who can provide guidance and support.



Case Study: Sarah and John – A Relationship Marred by Coercive Control

Sarah and John, a couple in their late 30s, have been together for ten years. They initially met at a social event and fell deeply in love, eventually deciding to move in together and build a life as a committed couple. Over time, their relationship began to take a darker turn as coercive control behaviours started to emerge.

Isolation and Surveillance:

John began to exert control over Sarah’s social life, limiting her contact with friends and family. He insisted on knowing her whereabouts at all times and would question her whenever she went out without him. Sarah’s friendships slowly withered, as she felt guilty for leaving John alone. She stopped attending family gatherings, and her friends noticed that she was increasingly isolated.

Emotional Abuse:

John’s controlling behaviours extended to emotional abuse. He would constantly criticize Sarah, making derogatory comments about her appearance, her choices, and her abilities. He told her that she was lucky to have him and that no one else would love her as much. Sarah’s self-esteem plummeted, and she began to doubt her worth.

Financial Control:

John took control of their finances, managing all of their accounts and making financial decisions without consulting Sarah. He also restricted her access to money, giving her an allowance for personal expenses. Sarah had no financial independence and had to ask for money even for basic necessities.

Manipulation and Gaslighting:

Whenever Sarah confronted John about his behaviour or expressed her unhappiness, he would deny or distort the truth. He made her feel like she was exaggerating or imagining things, making her doubt her own perception of reality. This gaslighting left Sarah feeling confused and isolated.

Threats and Intimidation:

John often used veiled threats to keep Sarah in line. He would say things like, “You’ll be all alone if you ever leave me,” or “No one else would put up with you.” These threats created a climate of fear and uncertainty, making Sarah afraid to express her needs and concerns.

Alienation from Support Systems:

Over time, John managed to create a rift between Sarah and her friends and family. He would make derogatory comments about her loved ones, often accusing them of trying to break them up. Sarah began to believe that maintaining these relationships was detrimental to her relationship with John.

Monitoring and Controlling Daily Activities:

John extended his control to every aspect of Sarah’s life, from her daily schedule to her clothing choices. He dictated when she should wake up, what she should eat, and how she should spend her time. Sarah felt like she had no autonomy and was constantly walking on eggshells.

Sexual Coercion:

John also exerted control over their sexual activities. He often pressured Sarah into having sex when she didn’t want to, using emotional manipulation to get his way. He withheld affection as a form of punishment, making Sarah feel obligated to comply with his desires.

Isolating the Victim from Professional or Educational Pursuits:

John sabotaged Sarah’s career aspirations. He discouraged her from pursuing a promotion at work, citing the additional time it would require away from him. He also accused her of neglecting their relationship if she considered going back to school to further her education.

Intervention and Recovery:

Recognising the signs of coercive control, Sarah eventually reached out to a local domestic abuse support group for guidance. She received counselling to rebuild her self-esteem and regain her independence. With the support of her family, friends, and professionals, Sarah found the courage to leave the relationship and file for a restraining order against John.

This case study illustrates how coercive control can develop gradually in a seemingly loving relationship, leading to isolation, emotional abuse, and manipulation. It also highlights the importance of recognising the signs and seeking help to break free from such an abusive dynamic. Sarah’s journey toward recovery serves as an example of hope and empowerment for those who have experienced coercive control.



Coercive control is a form of abuse that thrives on manipulation, isolation, and emotional abuse.

It can be challenging to recognise, but understanding the warning signs is the first step toward breaking free from this toxic dynamic.

If you or someone you know is experiencing coercive control in a relationship, don’t hesitate to seek help and support.

Remember; you are deserving of a healthy relationship. You are not alone, and there are resources available to help you regain your autonomy and self-worth.


Forget relationship counselling: We are just too different

“We are just too different for our relationship to work, and so relationship counselling is a waste of time”.  I had a new client say this to me this week, and it is a common thing for people to think.

But nothing could be further from the truth, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I have found from  relationship counselling with thousands of couples in trouble.

Have you ever thought what it would be like if your partner was exactly like you in every way? To start with, it would be physically impossible, but even it it was possible, would you really want it? Someone who was a clone of you except for the sexual anatomy?

Boring boring boring!

It is differences that make life interesting, it’s differences that give you advantages, it’s differences that give you other perspectives, it’s differences that balance you out.

It is often the differences that attract you to your partner when you first meet. For example you loved her fun loving nature because you are very serious; you were attracted to his neat organised structured way, as you were disorganised and forgetful.

Every couple has areas that they are different. There is no inherent problem with being different from your partner. The problem is only with how you handle the differences

For every couple, there will be differences that are so great that you feel you are polar opposites, each sitting on the outside edge of the continuum when compared with each other. For example: very responsible versus playful and fun loving, or very social versus a homebody.

The key factor in whether you see this as a huge problem or a huge gift, is whether you judge your partner or not. Do you sit at the end of your continuum looking over at your partner saying, or thinking “He’s such a jerk or an annoyance. Why doesn’t he do things like I do?”

Well, if so, you are wasting a huge amount of energy, not to mention a huge opportunity to see the gift your partner is giving to you.

If one of you is reliable and responsible and the other is fun loving, each of you is a gift to each other. Becoming more spontaneous and fun loving is just what the overly responsible one needs, and similarly, picking up more responsibility is just what the fun loving one needs too.

If  you can handle it as a gift both to each other and the relationship, you can enrich your relationship with your differences. The only thing stopping you is your sense of superiority and judgement which is the thing that will be killing your relationship, not the differences.

If you’re interested in further exploring relationship counselling, we’d love to hear from you.

More next time



women's failure to be assertive

Why women find it difficult to be assertive in their relationships

I talked in an earlier post on why men find it difficult to express empathy. For women, I have found that one of the most challenging things for them is to stand up for themselves in their relationship; I have many many women clients express how they are sick of their men controlling them, or they have lost themselves in their relationships over time.

There is a biological reason for why this happens.female brain

The female brain is built primarily for connection and social harmony. In a women’s brain, the communication and emotional memory centers are larger than in men’s, and additionally women have huge supplies of the hormones Oestrogen and Oxytocin.

Oestrogen creates an intense focus on communication and emotions, and Oxytocin, which is released when during intimate times (with a partner or a baby or child) leads to strong desires to nurture, help, serve, attach and bond, and additionally, triggers the trust circuits, by shutting down the critical and skeptical mind.

As well as this, the psychological stress of conflict registers far more deeply in female brains than in men’s.

So, maintaining the social approval of others, and the relationship at all costs is the goal, if you are a woman. Women are built to build social bonds based on communication and compromise, and to preserve harmonious relationships.

This all leads to women having outstanding verbal ability, a great ability to connect deeply in friendship and develop empathy, an almost psychic capacity to read faces and tone of voice for emotions and states of minds, a response to distress in others, and a wonderful ability to defuse conflict.


What does this mean?

In summary, women are built to highly value communication, connection, emotional sensitivity and consideration for others. All of these qualities are worthwhile, however women need to be careful not to overdo these and lose themselves in their relationships.

Men, on the other hand, with the flow of testosterone in their system, and more development in the Sexual and Aggressions centres of the brain, are built to be potent and affect the world as an individual.

This has a profound effect on our relationships with each other.

It means that men can learn from women how to be more empathic and communicative and connective, as mentioned earlier; and equally, women can learn from men how to pay attention to their own needs and be more assertive in standing up for themselves, particularly in their relationships with their man.


If you are a woman and don’t know how to go about developing this essential side of you, some individual counselling will help.

Until next time



how to make long-distance relationships work

How Do I Make My Long-Distance Relationship Work?

In the last few years, online dating has been skyrocketing in the search for our future partner. Dating apps are increasingly popular, and that makes it easier to broaden our geographic search for love. This also means that we are now building relationships at further distances. Long-distance relationships are becoming somewhat of a commonality for this reason.

Another reason why long-distance relationships are increasing is the way society is changing the way we work. Specialized fields, unemployment, FIFO work, and the increased ability to work in remote places, are also reasons long-distance relationships are increasing.

Having a relationship with a partner from afar away can make things quite tricky, especially if the long-distance relationship continues for an extended period. If children are also involved, this can make things extra tricky to navigate.


We often talk about how communication will make or break a relationship, and long-distance relationships are not exempt from this rule. Though it is easy to fall into a trap where communicating daily becomes a chore, and that can grow resentments and feelings of mistrust and judgements when conversations feel too generic and blunted.

We have put together a list with 7 tips in how to make it easier for your love to survive a long-distance-relationship:

1. Organic communication is key to long-distance relationships

For communication to work for your long-distance relationship, conversations should happen organically. You should both feel that you want to talk to each other, that you can’t wait to share what is happening in your life and having some distance also helps you longing for the next call or message. If your relationship is long-distance because your loved one is working remotely, then find compassion for them probably being quite busy with work, and perhaps not having too much new and fun information to share. And if you are the person working away and your partner is home with the kids, then understand they are most likely busy juggling the home-base with all that goes with it.

2. Our imagination can do more damage than you think

When we don’t see our loved one for extended periods, it is easy to make quick judgements of what is going on in their life. Especially if communication is sparing, or if one partner seems to have a more social life than the other person in the long-distance relationship. Jealousy and contempt are some heavy feelings, and it can be good to see a counsellor to sort out these feelings of judgement and mistrust.

3. Transparency and honesty

When we see each other daily, we have better insight into what is going on with our partner. We sense their moods and stress levels, we see what they are getting up to, and we have more opportunities to chit-chat and have sporadic conversations.

When we live in a long-distance relationship we rely on digital communication, where most of these factors are filtered out. Therefore, we must be extra vigilant to be the “eyes” for our partners, eliminating any reason for doubt around our whereabouts. Both parties of the long-distance relationships are responsible for total honesty and transparency. Perhaps prioritizing video calls, showing your surroundings, sending photos and videos, even a pic from your work site, or from home while doing the laundry or cooking. Sharing snippets of what is going on around you is key to a long-lasting long-distance relationship.

4. Prioritizing quality time when together

Quality time is key to all relationships, though when we live near our loved one, we have more opportunities to quality time than when living in a long-distance relationship.

In FIFO relationships, it can be easy to prioritize practical tasks for when the FIFO partner comes home for a week or two. And if you are living apart for a different reason, for example in neighboring cities, then scheduling in to visit each other equally, or meeting halfway for a night in a romantic hotel. Scheduling quality time is key to make these long-term relationships work.

And who says you can’t make that Friday night in front of Zoom a little extra special with your partner?

5. Sharing of responsibilities

If you have built a life together, with a household and children, and one partner suddenly works away from home, this comes with challenges you might not have calculated for. The home partner will naturally take on responsibilities around home and kids. If this partner also works full-time at the home base, the remote partner must understand the extra load this means for the home partner. Conversations around responsibilities are necessary for a long-distance relationship to work. Perhaps the remote partner can oversee finances, schedules, government services and so on. And when they are back at their home ground, making sure the home-partner gets a well-deserved rest from house chores.

If the remote partner has a FIFO scenario with week on/week off or similar, perhaps they can be in charge of lawn mowing, maintenance and car services etc. A counsellor can help long-distance partners figure out scenarios that can make your relationship more equal and fair.

6. Having something to look forward to

In a long-distance relationship, making it priority to make plans for when you are together helps you have something to look forward to for those moments when you plan to get together. Plan a getaway, a visit to your favorite restaurant, or a spa day can make your relationship extra special.

7. Having a timeline for the long-distance relationship

Let’s cut things straight, long-term relationships are difficult to maintain, especially if they seem to be permanent. Setting a timeline and end goal for the long-distance, to see that it is only temporarily, can help both parties manage through the time apart. Whether it is for studies, work or that you met living in separate cities, these conversations of your mutual future goals are necessary to make your long-distance relationship work out.



Relationship counselling can help your long-distance relationship flourish and grow. Our Hart Centre relationship counsellors and psychologists have been specifically trained to help you with the unique problems that come with long-distance relationships. We have therapists and psychologists in each city, as well as online counselling options for those who can’t make it into one of our offices, or if both partners are situated in separate locations.


Check our search tab to find the closest Hart Centre certified long-distance relationship specialised therapists in your area, or phone our friendly receptionists on 1300830552 who will help you.

Alternatively, click here to submit an appointment enquiry.



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How hard financial times can cause relationship problems


I think most of us know that when times are tough, we seem to fight more with our partner, but have you ever wondered why? How financial stress is transferred right into relationship problems?

Well, there are 2 areas of the brain mostly responsible for this, the amygdala and the brain stem. Without going into huge detail, our amygdala registers the fear that comes with financial stresses, and before we know it, it has communicated that to our brain stem which goes into survival mode and has us responding in either fight, flight or freezing.

Whichever one is chosen, whenever we are in this survival mode, we are reactive, and it is this reactivity that makes it very difficult for us to be open and receptive to others, which is necessary to have a good relationship with them.

So, we can’t stay open and attune to others, we don’t pause before responding, we can’t empathise with another, we have trouble getting a deeper insight into what is going on between us, we lose contact with our intuition, and we lose access financial struggleto our moral awareness.

This then has us going down the low road rather than the higher road in our communications with our partner. Once this negative spiral starts, it usually goes nowhere but down, getting quite ugly at times. There are no happy endings unless it is stopped.


We are all potentially prone to this kind of disintegration. The key is to firstly recognise what is happening, and catch yourself as early as possible.

Taking personal responsibility for yourself is the first thing to do.  As soon as you feel yourself reacting rather than responding, when you can feel emotional upset or emotional charge internally, then put up your hand, interrupt the conversation, and say to your partner “I am being reactive”.

Arrange with your partner for this to signal   “We need to stop for 15 minutes, spend time on our own settling down and reflecting on what just happened and why, then come back and return to the conversation from a more aware and neutral place”.

If you can both agree to do this each time either of you is feeling reactive, you can save a huge amount of wasted energy and upset in arguments, and really get to having a healthy conversation, even if , to start with, it is punctuated with a few breaks.

For further help with your communication and relationship problems, I urge you to seek relationship counselling as early as possible, as there is always a solution to a problematic situation.



gottman method relationship counselling

Is the Gottman Method your choice for Couples Therapy?

The Gottman Method is a couple’s therapy system developed by Dr. John M Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman who formed the Gottman Institute in 1996 after running the “Gottman’s Love Lab” since 1986.

John and Julie Gottman are truly the pioneers in relationship research and have developed an effective couples therapy approach based on rigorous scientific research, and to this day, no-one else has surpassed the amount of scientific research they have done.

Their mission is to offer a program of couples therapy to help the therapist neutralise conflicting verbal communication, improve issues around intimacy, dysfunction, difficulties with empathy, affection, and respect, and to help the couples understand their role and impact on the relationship.


Dr. John Gottman has dedicated 50 years of his life to research in marriage and parenting approaches. His methods and breakthrough research have led to numerous mental health and family therapy awards, and he was one of the top 10 most influential therapists by the Psychotherapy Networker. Dr Gottman has released over 200 published academic articles and over 40 books, including bestseller “The seven principles for making marriage work”


Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman is a highly regarded and respected clinical psychologist, married to Dr. John Gottman.  Julie Gottman was an early spokesperson and leading advisor on controversial topics such as same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian adoption, cancer patients and their families, trauma survivors, substance abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence. She has been recognised for her effective clinical psychotherapy treatments with specialisation in distressed couples and trauma victims.


The Gottman’s research has revealed several models for couples therapy.


One of the major insights the Gottman’s research has revealed is a foundational one that couples in trouble display one or more of the following 4 elements:

  1. criticism
  2. contempt
  3. defensiveness
  4. stonewalling

The Gottman’s call these the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The first 2, criticism and contempt are used as active weapons against each other, whereas the last 2, defensiveness and stonewalling are used as isolating and protective shields. All four horsemen are direct relational assaults on the harmony between the couple and are the cause of major problems in relationships.


Imagine your relationship as a house, where the walls are built from Trust and Commitment, and within these walls we have rooms that all need to be filled to build a good and sustainable relationship:

1. Trust
The foundation of all relationships is based on trust. Trust involves two or more parts where each partner is acting and thinking in the other’s best interests.

2. Commitment

Committing to a relationship is a mutual dedication to nurture, respect and value each other in all situations, and for an indefinite journey with common goals to stay together for better and for worse.

3. Create shared meaning

Finding what the unique visions and narratives are for your relationship.

4. Make life dreams come true

Holding a safe space where each individual in the couple feel comfortable sharing their hopes, values and aspirations for the relationship.

5. Manage conflicts

Understanding the differences in opinions and personality and how to handle and solve conflicts in the relationship.

6. The positive perspective

How to develop a positive approach to problem-solving and repairing past conflicts.

7. Turn towards instead of away

Build on curiosity towards a problem to connect and respond rather than react and turning away.

8. Share fondness and admiration#

Measuring the level of affection and respect within the relationship, strengthen the way this is expressed through fondness and admiration, to lower the level of contempt and resentment.

9. Build love maps

Understanding and building compassion towards each other’s psychological world, their history, worries, stresses, joys and hopes.


The Gottman’s approach is based on 10 principles of effective couples therapy.

In their opinion these are:

  1. Use research-based methods
  2. Asses first, then decide on treatment
  3. Understand each partner’s inner world
  4. Map your treatment route
  5. Soothe yourself first, then intervene
  6. Process past regrettable incidents
  7. Replace the four horsemen with gentle conflict management skills
  8. Strengthen friendship and intimacy
  9. Suspend moral judgement when treating affairs
  10. Dive deep to create shared meaning between the couple

John Gottman and his team are most famous for his very thorough and extensive research and assessment methods.  Some of these include:

Assessing each partner’s behaviours and interactions within the couples dynamic and what emotions and triggers that come up in different contexts;

Using specific questionnaires, interviews and video recall for self-assessments;

Observation and measuring of autonomic and endocrine responses in conflict situations;

The verbal history in a couple, observed emotions, and interactions;


Here at The Hart Centre, it is important that our counsellors, psychologists, and therapists offer relationship counselling based on the latest research.

Many of our therapists are trained in the Gottman Method and uses this therapy approach when helping their couples to a better relationship together.

If you are looking for a very thorough and extensive approach to assessment and couples counselling, we would recommend the Gottman Method.


Our Hart Centre relationship psychologists and counsellors have been specifically trained to help you with the unique problems that come in various family dynamics. We have psychologists in each city, as well as Skype counselling options for those who can’t make it into one of our offices. Find our Gottman Specific counsellors on the link below.

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How do I move on from a rocky childhood?

In an ideal world we would choose parents who are caring, empathic and loving, and who allow us to grow up as secure and happy individuals and give us values that prepare us to navigate through this world with confidence. As we grow up, we realise that life is not a bed of roses, and if we flip the coin, we can quickly see that, even for the most well educated, caring and secure individuals, parenting is not the easiest job in the world.

As adults, and especially when we get into relationships or become parents ourselves, we often develop more awareness of our own triggers and behaviours – many of which we may not be so proud of. We might see ourselves reflected in our children, and to our own dismay, realise that we are behaving just like our parents did when we were young. This can spark memories of how our parents’ behaviours used to make us feel.

We might show behaviours in adulthood we aren’t particularly proud of, such as disorganisation, mannerisms, or a sloppy lifestyle, or we might have similar anger outbursts or communication issues. It is then easy to deflect that blame of our behaviours onto our parents who imprinted that blueprint in the first place.




While you may have experienced much that can be considered trauma in its many forms as a child, and it is important to acknowledge and have compassion for yourself in having had to live through those experiences, it can be easy to get stuck in blaming your parents for your misfortune for a very long time, and this doesn’t allow you to fully learn from these experiences and move on to live your fullest life.


So, you might not remember your childhood as all joyful and sparkly; you might even have been faced with trauma, neglect, addictions, divorce, or sibling rivalry. Or you might have had one parent with unfavourable behaviours which you notice have impacted you as an adult. The number one thing that will help you move on with your life is to take responsibility for your life from here on in, instead of remaining as a victim of your childhood experiences.


Once you’ve been able to be compassionate with yourself, it’s time, if you can, to offer some compassion to your parents. Just like yourself, they were only given the manual of life handed down from their own parents, who in their turn had it handed to them from their parents and so on. Add in traumatic events, poverty, addictions, and trauma into the mix and we can often realise parenting has never been an easy task. Your parents may well have done the best they could with what they knew and  in the circumstances in which they were living. With these kinds of understandings you may be able to look on your parents with a softer lens, and discover more of their frailties and humanness.


 The world we live in is so full of resentments and judgements. We often jump to the conclusion that what is done to us was of malicious intent, and repeated behaviours are signs of laziness or selfishness. We often are quick to judge the reason behind someone’s actions, but we don’t always consider that there might be other factors that can explain why a person acts in certain ways.


Today, we are becoming increasingly aware of the neurological differences amongst our fellow earth beings. An increasing number of children and adults are being diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD, Autism and Bipolar disorder, and we are becoming more informed of addictions and emotional abuse in families, and it is becoming more accepting to speak about past traumas and abuse.

If we could perhaps see our experience of our parents through some of these lenses, maybe the disorganisation, anger outbursts and emotional dysregulation may be explained as a condition such as ADHD or bipolar disorder? Could the black and white thinking, abruptness, difficulty understanding other’s point of view, awkward social abilities and poor communication in fact be something like autism spectrum disorder?

It can help us understand our parents if we also educate ourselves on neurological conditions and disorders, to empathize and explain the dysfunctional behaviours. 


 Our healing journey to a happy life starts here and now with you. Once we realise that we can’t change our past, we can make a choice to educate ourselves, to heal, and to learn how to do things better.

We can give our children a different childhood than the one we had. Our best life for ourselves, and our children is in our hands and does not need to be limited by our past.


Our Hart Centre relationship psychologists and counsellors have been specifically trained to help you with the unique problems that come in various family dynamics. We have psychologists in each city, as well as Skype counselling options for those who can’t make it into one of our offices.



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Jealousy – the futile and fatal search for control


Sandra was furious. She had caught Tom checking her phone message once again. “ I just did it to reassure myself – its no big deal” Tom replied defensively.

Is it a big deal?

In relationships the tendency or temptation to control is one of the most toxic forces that leads to the breakdown of trust, openness and growth.

Worse it can lead to domestic abuse and in the worst cases violence. In fact physical violence should be seen as what it is – a desperate attempt to control one person by another. We know this is wrong, or we should. But people often get confused about control behaviours that fall short of physical contact. Sometimes these can be worse than physical force.

Psychological abuse which includes humiliation, denigration and bullying leave scars that take a lot longer to heal than bruises and broken bones.

Is your relationship riddled with Jealousy?

We often see the tendency to control associated with jealousy. Jealousy is a complex relationship dynamic. Fundamentally it is about fear. A fear that your partner will drift or he/she will be “stolen” . The notion that someone could be “stolen” naturally runs counter to the idea that relationships are a matter of choice.

Jealousy  and control are thus close companions. Control behaviours are much more common where there is a belief system that supports the idea of relationship as a form of ownership where one party (the male in patriarchal systems) has dominance or “ownership” of their partner. Males usually also have the capacity to physically dominate their female partner, but it is the belief that this is acceptable that causes the most damage.

This belief runs directly counter to the view that a relationship is a voluntary association between two adults of equal power. The “equal power” relationship is the one assumed and supported by our laws and the values of an advanced society. It means that two people enter, stay or leave a relationship based on free will and an unfettered choice.

In this context our fears and anxieties about our partner’s choice need to be managed. Any attempt to control should be named and recognized as the enemy of building trust.

How can you build love and trust with someone by imprisoning them with jealousy! Sounds  ridiculous – but this is precisely what many people try to do out of fear there partner will leave them.

The controller who is able to recognize their insecurity and learn to trust as well as develop a better framework for what is acceptable in relationship can save their relationship descending beyond the point of no repair. Many couples facing these problems have been helped by good relationship therapy.

Often the pattern of domination and control is recognized as a legacy of the family of origin – a family where Dad roared and Mum cowered. Usually when such a pattern is recognized there is a desire to improve on the past and not repeat the tragedy.

The point is to recognize control behaviours as toxic and name it and do what is required to get it out of your relationship.

This article is written by our Perth Relationship  Psychologist David Indermaur.



If you are in Sydney and want help with controlling issues in a relationship, see our Sydney Psychologists.





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