Getting Started with Recording Sessions

At some point during or soon after EFT training, participants start to ask for advice on recording sessions.In this 3-part post we cover first the “why”, later we’ll cover some of the “how”, including choices in equipment. Finally we’ll address how to watch your sessions to improve your work.

Why Record

In short, you will become a better therapist and your couples will likely make more progress. By reviewing your sessions you’ll be able to catch interactions you missed in the moment: the look, phrase, or tone of voice that led to the rapid escalation, for example. You can also track the flow of the session: how partners move into and out of emotional engagement in the moment that helps lead to change. Finally, to note your interventions and their impact in the moment: while there is usually no one correct intervention at a given time, having a chance to revisit your intervention and reflect on what happens next is a great aid for self supervision. I personally question whether a therapist can learn this model well without recording and viewing his or her work.

In addition to your self-guided process, there is a huge advantage in consultation in being able to show a clip of your work that demonstrates the impasse or other point of concern. In an experiential approach such as EFT, the stance and response of the therapist are so key to the treatment success that they are best seen in action rather than only described. Feedback on case formulation is also far more effective when the consultant can watch a bit of the couple’s process. For these reasons, in advanced EFT training and supervision audio or video recordings are generally required for case consultation.

Couple Concerns

Therapists unaccustomed to recording sometimes fret about the anticipated response of clients. When I explain that it helps me do better therapy and that I review sessions on my own time, most folks appreciate the added attention to their treatment. Confidentiality concerns can be addressed by having clients review and sign a consent form that specifies how the recording can be used. This varies from “for my eyes only” up to use in teaching and training.Unless the agreed upon use of the recording requires it, recordings should be erased as soon as they have been viewed or it’s determined that there is no need to do so. It is reassuring to clients to know there is not a library somewhere of their intimate therapy moments.

Couples sometimes worry they’ll be inhibited in the presence of recording gear. We discuss this and I relate my experience that almost everyone finds that they forget about the recording once we begin doing it. At any rate, couples always have the option to discontinue recording at any time and for any reason.There are couples who just are not comfortable with recording. In these cases it’s best to not pressure them in any way. Anything that negatively impacts safety and a strong alliance does more harm than good.

First Steps

Keep it manageable. Pick one or two couples and record each session. If at all possible video record since so much of the interaction and individual emotional processing are more clearly conveyed nonverbally. Try to review a session each week, paying careful attention to the points above in addition to specific elements of your technique, such as effective validation, reflections that emphasize attachment and the impact of your efforts to heighten primary emotion. Don’t feel obligated to watch the entire session; often a twenty minute clip is plenty.It’s always helpful to have a learning buddy: getting feedback from a fresh perspective expands your frame of reference. It’s sometimes easy to miss in the review what was missed in the session. An extra set of eyes and ears can be a big help.


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