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When you’ve been on the dance floor for a while, it’s hard to say, WE NEED SOME HELP

by Lisa Blum and Silvina Irwin on 08/08/16

When you’ve been on the dance floor for a while, it’s hard to say, We need some help.  Deciding to go to a Hold Me Tight Workshop.

 We are happy to share a few experiences of Ron and Debbie, recent participants of a Hold Me Tight Workshop: 

Hi! We are Debbie and Ron. We’re ordinary people, been married for…..well, long enough to have dug deep and predictable trenches in the way we do life and love together. Where these patterns are good, it’s great, where they’re not, it can be frustrating, annoying and at times really painful. You probably know what we’re talking about.

What was tricky about deciding to go to the Hold Me Tight workshop is that on the outside, we look like we have it pretty together.  Our relational “dance” had managed to skirt its way around many important “obstacles”. However, we found ourselves “tripped up” in places where it really mattered. Whether the issue was about taking an honest look at the relationship, being heard, feeling truly safe enough to say what you really want to say, healing broken trust, or intimacy, when you have been on the dance floor for a while, it’s hard to say, “we need some help.” We’re here to tell you, it’s definitely was worth mustering the “intestinal fortitude” and making the investment to step out and sign up!

So, what was it like for us and what did we get out of our two weekend Hold Me Tight groups with Silvina [Irwin], Lisa [Blum] and the team?


  •  Courage: It can be scary to head out on an unfamiliar journey with a group of people you don’t know, right? Maybe because it’s new and strange, and to everyone there, it’s very personal. We were amazed by the synergy that emerged as the facilitators skillfully crafted a program with structure, support, and safe space for couples to process material both together as a group and alone, to come back into the group and share if we wished to do so. As the weekends unfolded we witnessed courage beget more courage and tears tell stories of hope and healing.
  •  Comfort: While we found these workshops were very “therapeutic” they are not therapy. There was something tremendously comforting in being part of a group, identifying with others, and the human experience of facing similar challenges and struggles! We took this with us and it helped.
  • Co-creating Change: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got! Yet, that is what we did for so long. We came away with a different perspective on the dissatisfying pattern that interfered with our capacity to be emotionally accessible and engaged with each other, especially when we are stressed. We now have a “beginner’s guide” as to how our emotions are a way of understanding how we get caught in our “dance” and how we can practice a new one. We got a glimpse of what our dance could be like, when there is more freedom and safety to share real feelings and deep longings.


Our only regret is that we wish we had done this years ago. Hope you don’t miss this opportunity!


Debbie and Ron




Is a Couples Workshop Right for Us?

by Lisa Blum and Silvina Irwin on 08/01/16


Many people are hesitant to consider a Hold Me Tight Couples’ Workshop

  • Will I have to share our private business in front of others?
  • How can one weekend help us, if we’ve been struggling for months/years?
  • How do we take what we learn back home and apply it to our everyday life?
  • There’s the cost to consider… will it be worthwhile?

These questions make sense; your love relationship is a very private, very precious part of your life.  You don’t want to wander blindly into just any experience… you need to know it’s right for you,  and will be truly helpful to you, now and in the long-term.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a couples workshop:

·       How are you working on your relationship now? 

Couples need to have a tried and trusted way of working on struggles in your relationship where you both feel safe, heard, loving and loved, and where you can get to the heart of issues that are troubling you.  If you are seeking that kind of structure, the Hold Me Tight Workshop will provide it.

·       Is this workshop based on sound concepts informed by psychological science, or is it just the most recent fad on better relationships? 

Hold Me Tight® is a nationally-recognized, educational and experiential workshop for couples to enrich, heal, and strengthen their relationship. The workshop follows Dr. Susan Johnson’s best-selling book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.  This book outlines the science behind Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples, one of only a few research-validated approaches to couples therapy, and applies it directly to our common relationship struggles.

·       Are the facilitators experienced? 

Your relationship is precious.  You don’t want to entrust it to anyone.  Drs. Lisa Blum and Silvina Irwin are both licensed psychologists and relationship experts with 30 years of combined experience helping families and couples create more secure, fulfilling relationships.  They have been teaching the Hold Me Tight workshop for more than 5 years to consistently positive and appreciative feedback.

OK, you say, so the workshop will give us a structure for healing and deepening our relationship; it is based on science, with its principles outlined in a best-selling book I can read, taught by experienced and successful facilitators.  But how do I know if this workshop is right for us?

·       Yes, you have privacy.  You learn concepts and important relationship practices together in a group, but you work on your relationship in PRIVATE exercises that you do just with your partner.  Help is available if you need it, confidentially.

·       Yes, one weekend really does make a difference!.  Even if you and your partner have been in cycles of conflict or distance for months or years, this weekend can shift things because you learn a whole new way to understand WHY these negative cycles happen, and how to get out of them.  Hold Me Tight principles don’t just address the symptoms of your struggle – the workshop helps you get to the root of it.  Here are the words of one of our recent participants, who had just this experience:

“This workshop has been a life-changing experience. After struggling for years, and on the verge of divorce, we have finally found a way to communicate our feelings and needs. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

·       You take the workshop home with you, literally.  Every participant gets a full notebook of all the exercises in the weekend, and they are yours to return to any time you need to remember or deepen the good work you did on the retreat.  On the last day of the workshop, we build in time for you and your partner to PLAN how you are going to continue your meaningful work at home, even when the hecticness of daily life returns.

·       The value of the weekend to your relationship may be…. priceless.  Your registration fee for the weekend is all-inclusive, meaning it is for the two of you (not individual), includes lodging for the weekend, materials, guidance and assistance from our facilitators in your private exercise sessions, and several meals and refreshments during the weekend, and a welcome gift.  The value of the workshop is extremely high considering that 14 hours of couples therapy with an experienced therapist would easily cost several thousand dollars.  The weekend retreat, at a fraction of that, takes couples much farther in one weekend than months of individual therapy can.  This is because of the consistency and intensity of work a couple can do in a weekend format, away from the demands and distractions of everyday life.  This is time for JUST the two of you, to focus on each other and reconnect.

We would love to talk with you and answer any other questions you may have. Our next Hold Me Tight Workshop is in beautiful Lake Arrowhead, CA on October 14-16th.   Contact us for more details.

The Power of The Fly on The Wall: A First Look at the 7 Conversations of A Hold Me Tight® Workshop

by Lisa Blum and Silvina Irwin on 04/02/15

Conversation 1: Finding Your Demon Dialogue

Many couples can readily name what they so often fight about (parenting; money; the in-laws, sex), but not as many know how they fight or disconnect from each other – and how their very attempts to address a point of pain with their partner may backfire.  Partners can end up unintentionally dancing their mate into a doomed exchange -– a “Demon Dialogue.”

~   ~   ~ 

In a Hold Me Tight® Workshop for Couples, partners learn about the science of adult love and bonding, and apply these principles to their own relationship in a structured way, over the course of a series of private conversations. 

The basic premise is rather simple, actually.  We know that as human beings we are biologically wired to form bonds with a few precious others in the world to thrive.  Many scientific studies have corroborated that when we know that someone in the world “has our back” we are healthier, more likely to survive, and it gives a sense of well-being.  We understand now that a special kind of alarm system is wired into our brains and it is set off when we lose our secure connection with our most-important other.  This alarm system triggers the well known Fight, Flight or Freeze response.  With this understanding in place, the workshop follows the map of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), developed by Dr. Sue Johnson.  By following the EFT map,  couples begin to move from the pain and distance of disconnection, to a place of deeper understanding, security and re-connection.

The first conversation of the workshop is “Finding your Demon Dialogue.”  This conversation is an opportunity to – possibly for the first time – gain a new perspective on what is actually happening for each partner in the relationship when they are disconnected or in conflict.  Here partners get to be the proverbial “fly on the wall” and see the their fight/flight/freeze “dance” of emotional and verbal moves and counter-moves from a more objective distance – as if they were a fly on the wall watching the action. 

 By using partially completed sentences and paragraphs for guidance, each partner answers questions to help describe their own feelings and behaviors when they are caught in a conflict with their partner. They begin by identifying a common trigger situation between them (e.g., when one of them is under work stress and is less available to the family), and then proceed to explore the “dance” that unfolds:

“When I don’t feel safely connected to you, I _______ (describe an action or behavior, such as yell, sulk, withdraw, get sarcastic, etc.)” 

 Each partner describes their own “steps in the dance,” then collaborate to get a view of what is happening between them during those moments of disconnection.  The partners can begin to see how Partner A’s actions trigger Partner B’s responses, and Partner B’s responses trigger more of Partner A’s reactions, around and around they go in a circular pattern.  For example:

Partner 1: “I yell because I’m so frustrated that you aren’t hearing me.”

Partner 2: “When you yell I just want to shut the conversation down so it doesn’t get worse.  I get so tense when we fight.” 

And the rudimentary outline of the cycle begins to take shape:

Partner 1: “And when you shut down like that, I worry that we’ll never have a way to resolve our conflicts, and so I just yell more to get your attention – to get you to come back and talk to me.”

Partner 2: “And when you yell even more, I am totally sure that we will never resolve this and it will just get worse and worse, so that’s when I walk out.  So it doesn’t get even worse.”

 After a bit more flushing out and deepening, the exercise ends with this phrase: “The more I ___________(e.g., yell), the more you _______ (e.g., walk away).  We are both then trapped in pain and isolation… Seeing this dance is our first step out of the circle of disconnection.

 Partners who do this exercise say that it is a big relief to NAME what happens between them.  Once they can begin to see their dance from this vantage point, they can together step out of the grip of the Demon Dialogue.  THE PATTERN becomes the common enemy that they both choose to defeat together.  Their partner is then no longer the enemy.  

Seeing what happens from this perspective between partners is a crucial FIRST step on the path to reconnection and repair.  The next conversation in this process, Finding The Raw Spots, allows couples to explore the underlying, deeper level feelings that drive the triggers and reactions, but are often not understood or well expressed.   

Stay tuned….

By Silvina Irwin, PhD and Lisa Blum, Psy.D.

"We're All Turkeys in the Same Turkey Soup": Why Attend A Hold Me Tight Workshop for Therapists and Their Partners

by Lisa Blum and Silvina Irwin on 03/06/15

There are exquisite moments between partners that arise in the sacred space of mutual vulnerability, risk taking and openness with each other.  These are the moments that allow secure attachment to grow.  These moments anchor me in my work, and I treasure them.   I have the privilege of experiencing this with the couples I work with in my office, as well as in the Hold Me Tight Workshops that I facilitate with my dear friend and colleague Lisa Blum. 

 Prior to facilitating my first HMT workshop, I found it hard to imagine that in a workshop setting people could have these incredibly powerful and intimate experiences with one another.   I can say now that at each one of the 15 workshops that we have facilitated it happens.  I have been blown away by the power of this workshop, as it is in this safe, open group setting that we can truly witness and experience the universality of the struggle to love and be loved.  

 I often hear fellow EFT therapists express their longing to experience for themselves the power of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), but they feel like couples therapy per se is not necessarily needed in their own relationship.  Or perhaps they cannot solve the dilemma of who to consult as their therapist since all the EFT therapists in their community are a either friend or colleague. 

 As therapists, I am sure that most of us have dissected our own relationships, decoding ourselves and our partners as “pursuers” or “withdrawers”, and outlining our own negative cycles. Maybe we have even shared this insight with our partners.  But how many of us have felt rather alone in this process?  How many have wished to download what you now understand about attachment, love, and secure bonding into your partner’s brain?  Perhaps your partner has read Hold Me Tight – and that’s a HUGE gift to the relationship, and gives you a shared language. But unless you’ve made the time at home, and your partner has also been generously willing to do all of the exercises with you, it can still leave you longing for a fuller experience of EFT.

 Here are 4 common therapist struggles:


  •  I want to share my knowledge of love and secure bonding with my non-therapist partner.  How do I do that short of having them attend an EFT externship or just independently read a bunch of books?  We don’t have consistent time at home to focus on “us” with the kids, late nights and many demands on our time.
  • I want to experience the power of Emotionally Focused Therapy with my partner, but we would need some guidance and structure to get us there at first. 
  • As a therapist, I focus so much on helping my couples and clients to heal and thrive, that I am depleted and don’t have the energy to bring to my own relationship. 
  • I want to attend a Hold Me Tight Workshop, but feel embarrassed that as a therapist myself, I find myself needing help too.  I wonder what other couples in the workshop would think of me?


 A wonderful solution to the therapist’s dilemma is to attend a Hold Me Tight workshop specifically for Therapists and Their Partners.  It is not therapy – but it is deeply therapeutic and very informative.  You and your partner together will immerse yourself for an entire weekend in nurturing, deepening and healing your relationship.  Together you will walk the EFT map, and can resource this map to keep you tethered to one another in the face of your relationships struggles for years to come.  You will be amongst your colleagues, and feel validated that our struggles in love and relationships are universal.  As Sue Johnson put it so perfectly “We are all just turkeys in the same turkey soup”!  It’s also a chance for therapists’ partners to join with others who share the unique experience of being partner to a healer.

 EFT is at its heart a present-process experiential model.  “Knowledge comes from experience; everything else is information,” as Albert Einstein said.  The added bonus is that by participating in this workshop, you will experience and learn the EFT model.  You will learn more about the science of love underlying the EFT approach, as well as experience the process of outlining your negative cycle, learn to step aside together from these negative patterns that cause so much pain and keep you distant from one another, and how to reach for each other to bring each other close again. 

 As a therapist who has committed his or her career to walking alongside those who are hurting, and helping to heal broken hearts, how often have you turned your focused attention on nurturing YOUR most important relationship?  We know that being in a secure relationship with your precious other is one of the strongest predictors of psychological and physical health and longevity, and it is also a protective factor in the development of vicarious trauma in therapists.  Take the time now to nurture and care for yourselves through this workshop.

 We hope you can join us at our next Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend Retreat, exclusively for Therapists and Their Partners, April 17-19, 2015. You can learn more at