Where you can find Sarah:
couples, attachment style, relationship, people, partner, attachment, anxious, specialize, tend, person, insecure attachment, closeness, session, communication, secure, brain, anxious attachment style, avoidant, space, online
[Jon Dabach] 00:00
My guest today is the wonderful Dr. Sarah cheviots. She is a licensed psychologist specializing in Surprise, surprise, love and relationships. And she’s the founder of the successful online psychology practice couples learn. She has been working in the couples in relationship and individuals to improve their love lives for over 15 years.
[Jon Dabach] 00:22
And she has advanced training in the areas of attachment conflict management, communication, rebuilding trust, after infidelity, and even treating attachment trauma, she has been featured on Forbes, CNN, Bravo TV, Washington Post, woman’s health, Bravo TV, I mean, just a lot of places, you’ve probably already heard of her if you’re in the space, she’s absolutely a dream to work with the dream to talk to.
[Jon Dabach] 00:49
And I know that it was a hugely educational episode for me, and I’m sure we’ll be for you to you’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with Jon Dabach, also known as Mr. Spirituality.
[Jon Dabach] 01:01
That’s me. I’m your host giving you insights and guidance from over 10 years in the field of this amazing journey we call romance on this show, I go over everything you need to know about how to get into a relationship, how to get the most out of a relationship, and sometimes even how to gracefully end a relationship without pulling your hair out and going crazy.
[Jon Dabach] 01:23
And occasionally, I’m even joined by new and old friends who are also relationship experts to bring you guidance and wisdom with new perspectives. Thanks for stopping by. Well, let’s dive right in. I’m really excited to talk. First of all, how long have you been doing this?
[Sarah Schewitz] 01:39
I’ve been working with couples since 2008. So a little over 15 years now.
[Jon Dabach] 01:44
Yeah, that’s a’s a nice stretch and couples. I want to just kind of jump into the lion’s mouth right off the start. Why is it so hard because you have a group practice that you’re growing and constantly looking for really good, qualified people to work with you and your practice?
[Jon Dabach] 02:00
And I found this too, when I when I’m reaching out to therapists across the whole world, not just America. And I find that people who really truly specialize in couples are hard to find. Yeah. Why do you think it’s so hard to find someone who specializes in this line of counseling?
[Sarah Schewitz] 02:19
Well, there’s, I think there’s a lot of reasons. One, it takes a lot of mental energy and fortitude to be a couples therapist, because you’re managing a lot more energy in the room, and you’re managing two different personalities, and then the whole dynamic of the relationship.
[Sarah Schewitz] 02:35
So it can be pretty draining and exhausting for a lot of people. I think the one those of us that specialize in that kind of like the extra energy and excitement that comes with it might have grown up in homes where we had to manage a lot of relationship conflicts anyway, and so we got good at it. But as far as and then, you know, there’s a whole business reason why as well, because couples care therapy tends to be a little bit shorter term than individual therapy. So it’s honestly not a great business model when you’re trying to retain clients.
[Jon Dabach] 03:08
How long? That’s a good point. I mean, how long would you say your typical length of working with a couple lasts? Like 10 to 20? Sessions? Yeah, yeah, that’s what I find to 10 to 20. And it’s funny because my wife is a therapist, specializes in perinatal and an anxiety and she says, you know, six months is where she starts seeing, like, real transformation for a lot of our clients.
[Jon Dabach] 03:33
And I’m thinking to myself, I don’t know, any couple I’ve seen for six months. I mean, they might come back, but like, that’s not a regular trajectory sometimes. Do you ever have it where they break off and someone will stick with you on an individual level after couples?
[Sarah Schewitz] 03:46
Yeah, I do. And I sometimes have couples request that but if it seems like they’re going to get back together, which so often does happen, then we kind of talked about whether they want to keep that space for the couple or, you know, kind of sometimes working with them individually can make it a challenge to go back to working together as a couple later.
[Jon Dabach] 04:05
Yeah, for sure. What do you do you have any crazy stories in terms of how you’ve treated couples, especially with the virtual space? Any kind of unusual kind of fun stories that you’d want to share?
[Sarah Schewitz] 04:18
Um, I get quite a few long distance couples, sometimes in different countries. Some folks who have met online and have had most of their relationship online, so that’s kind of interesting. I’d say that’s rare, but it has happened.
[Jon Dabach] 04:36
I don’t so I have I have one for you. Okay, great. I have a new client. I’m going to pick your brain because it’s, you know, one expert that I’m that I have in the chair, so I’m going to take advantage of it. I have an I have a client where they met online, but he’s been incarcerated. I heard that too. Now that you mentioned that. Yes.
[Jon Dabach] 04:56
And so they’ve only met once when they got married during visitation Mission and I’m doing these sessions virtually with one person on camera and one person just audio. I’m treating it a lot like a long distance relationship. But there are other challenges, because obviously, there’s different freedoms that they just don’t have, when someone’s just, you know, off at work, is there a different approach that you would have for something like this?
[Sarah Schewitz] 05:23
You know, I didn’t even move forward with it. Because having worked in the prison system, as a therapist, I know how hard it can be for them to access the phones at a certain time, or to have any amount of privacy is pretty much nonexistent. And it can be so loud in the background. So you know, I think that, gosh, that is such a challenging situation, and incredibly
[Jon Dabach] 05:46
Rewarding for me. I mean, because I saw how much both of them were willing to learn. But yeah, it was it definitely is challenging. And that it wasn’t Yeah. So I
[Sarah Schewitz] 05:55
Think we would have to flexibility really, that’s my main recommendation is be flexible in terms of like cancellation. And you know what that looks like, but
[Jon Dabach] 06:04
Well, you just dropped the bomb that you worked in the prison. Tell me about that. That’s, that wasn’t something I knew. 10 seconds ago. So
[Sarah Schewitz] 06:13
I started my practice, I worked part time and then ice facility immigration detention facility in California. And while it’s not technically a prison, it basically is. And we there were low level low risk detainees who were seeking asylum and delayed with paperwork, etc.
[Sarah Schewitz] 06:38
So they were kind of in blue uniforms. And we had orange uniforms and red uniforms. And the red uniforms were ex-cons that had been picked up pretty much straight from prison and were brought to the facility for deportation. And they were, you know, a lot of gang members and, and dangerous criminals. So it was definitely not a prison, but like working in a prison.
[Jon Dabach] 07:03
Yeah, it probably. I mean, I think, if you have that as your background, maybe couples therapy isn’t as scary. Wow. Yeah. Wow. So let’s talk about your approach to couples therapy. I know you’re swamped and usually overbooked. So but but I’d love to hear, you know, for people who can hear it from an expert who is at the top of her game, what it’s, you know, what is it that you’re that you come into a session with? In terms of goals for the couple? Do you meet them? Where they’re where they are? Or do you kind of invite them to come where you are? And are there different modalities that you lean on? Or do you kind of pick and choose depending on the couple.
[Sarah Schewitz] 07:45
I do have modalities that I lean on. And I offer a free 30 minute consultation to couples. And I kind of tell them about that. And they can self-select whether it fits for them or not. I usually start with an assessment called the Gottman relationship checkup that does full x ray of their relationship. It’s a research based assessment that looks at all different areas of their relationship from like, how they feel about their sex lives, and communication and conflict and how well they can meet each other’s needs and all kinds of good stuff.
[Jon Dabach] 08:17
Yeah, I talked about that meant a lot on the podcast, I’m a big, big advocate.
[Sarah Schewitz] 08:21
I mean, they’re great. And they’re just such a cute couple to they are. So I start with their assessment, and then I move into a Mago therapy after the whole assessment process. And that was created by another adorable couple, actually Harville Hendricks and Helen le Kelly hunt. And it’s a really structured way of working with couples where they are facing each other and talking to each other in session for the bulk of the session, but I’m kind of helping guide the communication between them by giving them prompts.
[Sarah Schewitz] 08:56
So if they’re processing a fight, I might be giving the sender one person’s talking at a time. So I might be giving the sender prompts like what hurt me about that was and what scared me about it, and what it reminded me of from my past and how I responded and how that response might have contributed to our disconnect. So I’m kind of walking them down this ladder of vulnerability.
[Sarah Schewitz] 09:19
And the other person is just listening and repeating back what they’re hearing they’re not interjecting they’re not sharing their opinion they’re not arguing and then we switch and do the same but in reverse with the other person being the sender and so that really helps with couples who have trouble communicating to slow everything down and to help them validate and empathize with each other.
[Sarah Schewitz] 09:43
Oh, I did miss those steps. The listener also validates and empathizes with my reaction. Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. So that’s the modality I use and others on my team use different modalities. So we kind of have the whole gamut covered as far as
[Jon Dabach] 09:57
When you say facing each other for people who haven’t seen it. They’re literally their chairs are what may be a foot apart. And they’re physically facing each other. Right? That’s the imago method. Yeah,
[Sarah Schewitz] 10:06
There need a knee basically.
[Jon Dabach] 10:09
And you’re just sitting kind of between the two, but a little further off and kind of prompting them. Well, in
[Sarah Schewitz] 10:14
My case, I’m online. So the computer is sitting there
[Jon Dabach] 10:19
Was my question is how, how does it work online? You know, do you just have them use one camera and you watch from you know, your, your office?
[Sarah Schewitz] 10:30
Yeah, so they’re using usually their laptop because that’s easier with couples to fit everyone on the screen, and they put it on a table and get two chairs, and I can see them great. They can hear me great. And they’re so focused on each other in session, I should be kind of a background presence anyway. So the online thing works really well with a Mago.
[Jon Dabach] 10:49
Yeah, we had Mary Kay Kucera on here she Do you know, Mary, I do. I know her. Well. She Yeah, she she talked about ECC T and a Mago is really kind of fascinating. So I’m going to look into it more myself. Because it’s one it’s definitely one modality. I’ve never really explored that much.
[Sarah Schewitz] 11:07
And herbals book getting the love you want is really?
[Jon Dabach] 11:10
I’ve read that for sure. Okay. Yeah, yeah, just not as a practice, just not as someone you know, bringing it into a session. Yeah. Very cool. What made you what drew you to it,
[Sarah Schewitz] 11:21
It just makes so much sense to me. The whole premise behind it is that we attract in somebody who’s going to trigger our childhood wounding. And the goal of our unconscious is to get that person to change so that you can heal the wounds from your past and finally have the needs met, that weren’t met in childhood.
[Sarah Schewitz] 11:41
And just through my own experiences and relationship as well as what I see in couples, I just thought, Yeah, that’s exactly what’s happening over and over again, here. Just really fits for me. And then I love the structure of the dialogue.
[Jon Dabach] 11:57
Yeah, that’s always helpful. Do you kind of have like a roadmap for yourself and a roadmap for the couples, which is kind of nice? Yes, that’s true. You talk about, you know, the things we’re bringing in from the past, let’s talk I know you deal with attachment styles a lot.
[Jon Dabach] 12:14
For people who aren’t because it’s, we haven’t had the chance to go over it yet. In on the show, let’s go over a little bit about what you look for in attachment styles. And I know you even have a course about it as well, yeah. So I’ll take the opportunity to kind of pick your brain on it a little bit more.
[Sarah Schewitz] 12:31
Attachment is such a powerful thing to learn about, I think, because so many people have these repeating patterns and relationships and think there’s something wrong with them, or don’t understand why they are the way they are or keep attracting the same type of people. And it’s usually based on attachment style. So there’s four different types of attachment styles.
[Sarah Schewitz] 12:54
And they’re kind of in two categories, secure attachment, and an insecure attachment. And in insecure attachment, there’s avoidant attachment style, anxious attachment style, and then a combination one that’s disorganized attachment style, and it’s a combination of the anxious and avoidant type. And then in the secure side, there’s just one and its secure attachment. And about 50% of the population is securely attached, and about 50% Is insecurely attached. So your odds are 5050 of meeting someone with either type of style.
[Jon Dabach] 13:29
And heck of a coin flip.
[Sarah Schewitz] 13:32
It is and I think the older you get, the more you’ll find insecure attachment in the dating pool as well. So there’s that to contend with. Additionally, because
[Jon Dabach] 13:41
What so let’s, let’s pause there when you say the older you get. So you’re saying just so I clarify, like if you’re dating into your 40s? Or what’s the do you?
[Sarah Schewitz] 13:51
You know, it depends where when people get married in your region, but secure attached folks tend to be much more comfortable with long term committed relationships and kind of partner up at the typical age for many people. And so the older you get, the more you’re going to find people who are on the avoidant side who are a little bit more commitment averse and not really there. They’re more like wanting their space and needing.
[Jon Dabach] 14:23
Would you say there’s an exception for people who are divorced or widowed? Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. Okay. Got it. So it’s just people who’ve kind of stayed single, though, they tend to have the tendency to have that insecure attachment type. Yeah,
[Sarah Schewitz] 14:38
Yeah. Okay. And I’m happy to talk about what a little bit about what each one is. If that was Yeah,
[Jon Dabach] 14:43
For sure. Sure. Yeah. Get back on track there. So secure
[Sarah Schewitz] 14:47
Attachment. Like I said, they tend to be comfortable with commitment that they’re also comfortable being alone. They tend to be pretty confident in relationships, they go into it expecting things will work out and even if they don’t, it’ll be a positive expect ants, they can, they’re pretty easy to be with in relationship, you know, they can handle closeness, they can handle space, they have good boundaries, they tend to have decent communication skills, just overall kind of they’ve had a healthy relationship with their caregivers growing up. And this is the basis of attachment style is how you were
[Jon Dabach] 15:21
50% of the population, is this
[Sarah Schewitz] 15:27
A little more perfect than it is?
[Jon Dabach] 15:29
Yeah, I was gonna say there’s good breaks a bit here.
[Sarah Schewitz] 15:34
This is generally what a secure attachment feels like, certainly, there’s a lot of room for improvement with communication in, and I’d say, like, 90% of our population. But overall, they’re decent at relationships. Okay, and they were given that as a child, your first 18 months of life really kind of dictates your original attachment style. And then from there, you absolutely can change it. But those first 18 months are pretty pivotal. So that’s secure. Go ahead and say something.
[Jon Dabach] 16:09
No, no, I was gonna pivot you to the insecure because I think we covered that. So the over maybe anxious first,
[Sarah Schewitz] 16:14
Okay, so anxious folks tend to be anxious in relationship, as it seems like, there’s a lot of push and pull. So they might push their partner away, hoping their partner is going to chase them to prove that they really care about them. They tend to criticize more frequently than other partners and just be a little bit more rejecting. But they actually are much they desire more closeness than anyone else. And they need more reassurance than any other attachment style. So it’s, it’s
[Jon Dabach] 16:46
What happens in the first 18 months that causes an anxious style of insecure attachment?
[Sarah Schewitz] 16:54
Pair, one or more of their parents or caretakers is inconsistent with their attention. So they might be available and loving sometimes and then rejecting or dismissive at other times. And so the person just learns love is not predictable. I need to constantly be testing it, and chasing it essentially.
[Jon Dabach] 17:13
Yeah, that’s such a huge problem. And so many See, now I got to read that book. Again, there’s, there’s so many couples who come in where they, you know, you hear like, I don’t know how to trust him again. And it’s like, they put their partner through these tests. And now I’m hearing this going, maybe I should, maybe I should assign this reading. Because it’s, it plays into that anxious attachment style very, very much. So
[Sarah Schewitz] 17:38
the best book, I think, for attachment is wired for love by Dr. Stan Tompkins, he does a really nice job of describing all the styles and not making anyone bad or wrong for their attachment style, I think attached tends to make avoidance feel like they’re doing something wrong, and they are terrible partners. And that’s just not the case.
[Jon Dabach] 18:02
Yeah, okay, good. That’s a good little Reading Tip. Let’s move it to the other insecure attachment style.
[Sarah Schewitz] 18:08
So that’s avoidant attachment style, they tend to need more space, whereas anxious needs more closeness. And the twist of fate as fate would have it. Most of the time, these two are attracted to each other. And so you’ve got someone who needs a lot of closeness or reassurance and someone who needs a lot of space and freedom together. And you can imagine that doesn’t go very well.
[Sarah Schewitz] 18:28
Yeah. But avoidance tend to be a little bit shut down emotionally. They’re not as great it’s recognizing and expressing their emotions. Their partner might be constantly saying things like, I just don’t feel connected to you, or I don’t even know if you like me, or I don’t even know if you want me. They tend to idealize exes or chase an ideal partner that really doesn’t exist. Yeah. Which is why they often stay single and hope in search of this perfect person.
[Jon Dabach] 18:59
Right? And would you would you say that those folks are also more prone to infidelity? Because they’re chasing like a new thing? Or is that too big of a statement?
[Sarah Schewitz] 19:09
I don’t know. Yeah, I’ve never seen any data on that. And I would, you know, I could say, anecdotally, that would make sense because they’re often looking for ways to create space, whether it’s being critical, internally critical of a partner to kind of create emotional distance or cheating or pulling away and spending a lot of time alone, or idealizing, an axe and comparing their current partner to that ex. There’s just lots of ways they create mental space from their partner.
[Jon Dabach] 19:38
Super interesting. And then the disorganized is the people who are hot and cold where they want the space and then they want the closeness and my kind of
[Sarah Schewitz] 19:45
yeah, they’re a combination of anxious and avoidant and they typically have experienced some sort of abuse or neglect in their childhood that just help them develop the belief and the kind of physical sensation that love is The interest and that’s not safe.
[Jon Dabach] 20:02
So if you’re married or in a relationship with someone, and you have a secure attachment style, and they have an insecure one, let’s pick kind of the kind of one of them that kind of have the most high touch point issues, which is the disorganized one. What would you see in a relationship like that?
[Sarah Schewitz] 20:23
Well, so secure attachment can tolerate all different types of attachment style, and kind of accommodate to those. But what you might see from the disorganized person is disorganization. It’s the least common of the attachment styles, but you would see a lot of push and pull, you would see confusion around just a lot of even communication can feel confusing and disorganized.
[Sarah Schewitz] 20:51
You might see a lot of toxic behaviors, abusive behaviors, even from someone with a disorganized attachment style, because that’s how they were loved growing up. So that one will be a little bit more extreme than an anxious or an avoidant kind of
[Jon Dabach] 21:07
In your therapy, when you’re doing a Magog therapy, Are you tapping into these attachment styles through the dialogue or through the is that part of the process?
[Sarah Schewitz] 21:17
Sometimes it’s not part of the process. But because I’m so attachment focused, I definitely bring that into my work. Imago is more about whatever bringing the childhood wound that’s being triggered into the dialogue about the fight. So it looks at attachment from that perspective, but it wouldn’t necessarily label anxious avoidant secure and kind of talk through that. I certainly do. Because I think it’s really important. And it’s, you know, a lot of
[Jon Dabach] 21:43
Different understand on a cognitive level what’s right, yeah. And
[Sarah Schewitz] 21:47
Then once you understand and you kind of have a label for something, it, it can be really empowering. And then you can start doing research. And you can start externalizing, like, Okay, this is an avoidant behavior coming up, or this is an anxious behavior coming up, I want to be in a secure relationship, so I’m going to choose a securely attached behavior instead.
[Jon Dabach] 22:07
Absolutely, that makes sense. So what is your course go over,
[Sarah Schewitz] 22:11
Just that changing from an insecure attachment to a secure attachment, that’s called Getting to secure attachment. And it’s all about. So it’s all about recognizing what your attachment style is, there’s a quiz and there’s a bunch of different descriptions much more in depth than I just went into, of each attachment style. And then there’s a whole section on how to create a secure attachment. We talk about boundaries, we talk about communication, we talk about securely attached behaviors, trust, all kinds of good stuff.
[Jon Dabach] 22:47
Sounds great. How can how can someone accesses work? Where’s that available?
[Sarah Schewitz] 22:52
You can go to couples learn.com, and just click on online courses. And you’ll see it’s popped right up there.
[Jon Dabach] 22:58
Couples learn.com online courses. Okay, awesome. Very cool. If let me let me close with this if you could teach someone other than attachment styles, because we covered it, if you could kind of implant something from your brain and your experience in couples therapy into each client that comes through the door, that would make a huge transformative change. And then what would it be one kind of nugget of advice?
[Sarah Schewitz] 23:25
I think one of the simplest and most powerful things to do is focus on one thing a day that you love and appreciate about your partner and share it with them. Because it Prime’s your brain to start looking for those things. Instead of looking for the things you dislike, or want to change or want to constructively criticize, and it really Prime’s you to be looking for the opposite, which
[Jon Dabach] 23:51
I love the way you said that too. It trains your brain. I mean, your brain learns how to be in certain relationships, and what kind of movement I always tell people, there’s no such thing as stagnation in a relationship, you’re either growing or shrinking and your closeness, there’s no, there’s no such thing as a flat line, if you’re flat lining, you’re dead.
[Jon Dabach] 24:10
So if you’re training your brain to criticize, right, if you’re training your brain to look for the negative things that’s just going to perpetuate you on this downward spiral. And the same thing, like you said, if you train your brain to look at the good, and then I think you’re right, sharing it with your partner provides an opportunity for them to also empathize and reflect and do the same for you and it has this exponential way of growth of growing people together. I think that’s a beautiful, beautiful piece of advice.
[Sarah Schewitz] 24:40
Yeah, the crazy thing is you don’t even have to train your brain to criticize we do that naturally, because it’s a survival tactic, but constantly scanning for what’s wrong what can be optimized what can kill us
[Jon Dabach] 24:51
And it’s not my fault. Let’s not forget it’s not my fault.
[Sarah Schewitz] 24:54
Yeah, but that’s how humans have survived and you know, evolved but you Do you have to train your brain to do the opposite?
[Jon Dabach] 25:03
Wow, great powerful. So you don’t need to learn how to be a critical jerk. That kind everybody’s born with that. But it does take it does take a little bit of training to learn how to be kind and see the generosity and see the affection and call it out. I think that’s a huge lesson. Huge lesson. Well, Dr. Sarah cheviots, thank you so much for joining us again, if you want to look at her online course which I’m going to check out right now. It’s at couple’s learn.com And then there’s a handy dandy link right there that says online courses. Thank you so much for being with us. I had a great time talking to you. It was my pleasure.
[Jon Dabach] 25:40
Thanks for having me. If you’re interested in learning how to get the absolute most out of your romantic relationships then you’re in luck because I have put together a free workshop or masterclass if you will about three secrets that people in happy relationships have discovered. You can view the workshop and mister spirituality.com/three secrets again, it’s completely free.
[Jon Dabach] 26:04
Just go there and watch it it’ll help you on your journey give you some wisdom. Some things to think about. The website again is Mr. spirituality.com/three secrets. That’s mrspirituality.com/the Number three, the word secrets. It’s all yours. Enjoy.