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Meet the Co-Founders of the EFT Resource Center of Pasadena: Dr Silvina Irwin and Dr. Lisa Blum

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Silvina Irwin and Dr. Lisa Blum.

Dr. Irwin and Dr. Blum, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
We met when we were both established clinical psychologists with private practices in Pasadena. As we worked with adolescents, families, and adult individuals, we consistently found that much of the healing work that was called for centered on the couple’s relationship. Our shared need for a coherent and effective psychotherapy model that supported couples’ relationships led us to Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).

We resonated with EFT’s foundation that all people are inherently social beings, hard-wired to rely on their partners and loved ones for comfort and support to deal with the stress of life and also to celebrate the joys of life with. When this secure emotional connection is lost, efforts to cope can get people stuck in distressing negative cycles. We were immediately drawn to how EFT helped people identify and stop these painful negative cycles, and find new ways of relating so that they could feel seen, understood, and safely connected to their loved ones.

In 2009, we began our EFT training under Dr. Sue Johnson, who founded EFT over 30 years ago. We grew to specialize in this model of psychotherapy in our practices, becoming certified after a few years. Silvina also received direct mentorship and certification by Sue Johnson in how to train therapists all over the world in this model.

When Sue Johnson developed the “Hold Me Tight” couple’s workshops to help couples strengthen and repair their relationships, we (Lisa and Silvina) partnered together to bring these transformative workshops to couples in Southern California. In 2011, we were among the first to offer these workshops in Los Angeles, and have evolved the workshop over time to reflect a unique expression of our personalities and practices. Eventually, our expertise in facilitating “Hold Me Tight” workshops led Sue Johnson, the founder of EFT, to invite us to produce a training DVD for her International Center for Excellence in EFT on best practices in facilitating her program.

In working together, we (Lisa and Silvina) discovered kindred spirits in each other: we shared a similar passion, approach, and ethical integrity in our work. We also shared the challenges of raising children while maintaining a busy professional life. This brought us closer together and we have become good personal friends in addition to being professional business partners.

We decided to formalize our partnership in 2013 and established the EFT Resource Center as a home for our couple’s workshops. Our vision for the EFT Resource Center also included establishing a center of excellence in the community for clients to receive EFT psychotherapy services and for mental health professionals to receive training in the EFT model.

Today, we have four clinicians on our team and are continuing to expand. In the past year, our team has proudly served over 130 psychotherapy clients and have provided trainings to over 300 professionals in Southern California and beyond.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The smoothest part of this journey has been our unwavering passion and shared commitment to bring health and healing to couples, families, as well as to individuals across the lifespan. We have also deeply cherished the good spirit of our partnership together.

But this road has certainly come with many challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all was that we were not trained as business people. There was a huge learning curve in how to establish an organization without any business training; our psychotherapy training and graduate education had a distinct absence of a business mindset.

One of the most intimidating aspects of business was learning how to market ourselves and our programs. The idea of self-promotion at first felt antithetical to the practice of psychotherapy. We still remember how uncomfortable it was to send out those first marketing emails for our workshop. Only five couples ended up attending our first workshop, and we really had to shake the trees for those!

Now our workshops are regularly sold out, with up to 20 couples in attendance. Since we began offering these workshops, we have served about 300 couples. What really gave us more confidence to promote our workshops were the remarks we were getting back on the evaluations after our weekend workshops. Time and again, participants were writing, “People need to know about this workshop and how you help couples!” or “This workshop saved my relationship…I wish I had come years ago”.

We realized that this work was bigger than us. We were doing this because it was so important to help people love and be loved more deeply, and offering this workshop to our community became literally a labor of love. At first, we were barely making a profit. Eventually, word got out, and our reputation grew. Our passion to share this experience, and our belief in the value of this approach for helping couples grow stronger together allowed us to become more confident, and eventually we outgrew that initial fear of marketing. Now people approach us to be added to our mailing list.

Another major challenge is learning to be business owners while simultaneously being working parents with young children. We have countless stories of exchanging presentation slides at 4 AM, having our kids playing together in the next room while we hammered out workshop exercises, and the nail-biting moments of trying to get on the road to a workshop while needing first to attend to family needs. There have been many tears, sleepless nights, much laughter, and quite a few pulled hairs that we’ve shared over the years! Despite these challenges, one of the most precious gifts we’ve gained along the way is the pleasure of seeing our daughters build a friendship of their own as they witnessed their moms joyfully collaborating in passionate work.

Please tell us about EFT Resource Center.
The EFT Resource Center is a committed to providing excellent psychotherapy services to couples, adult and adolescent individuals, and families. All of our clinicians, including our interns, have (at a minimum) advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples, which is one of the most well- researched and effective models of couple’s therapy. In addition to psychotherapy services, we offer transformative educational workshops and retreats for couples. We create a safe and constructive space for couples to understand and deepen their emotional connection as well as their sexual relationship. Lastly, we train and supervise clinicians all over the world who are interested in learning this model of psychotherapy.

We are most proud of our commitment to excellence. Psychotherapy has historically been a very closed-door industry shrouded in mystery. Psychotherapy is founded in science, but to do it well, one has to hone the art and craft of it – and our team explicitly focuses on operationalizing the craft of psychotherapy. This shared endeavor is of supreme importance to us. We discuss at length HOW to do this well. We trade notes on where we struggle, not just where we succeed. We consistently videotape our sessions (with our clients’ permission) and review our sessions as a team – this is one of the ways we provide highly attentive care for the previous relationships of the clients we are privileged to serve. We also hire and train clinicians who share this openness, humility, and thirst for learning. As workshop facilitators, therapists and supervisors, we constantly learn from our participants, clients and trainees. What sets us apart from others is this high level of curiosity and commitment never to stop evolving.

We also make sure to stay engaged in the community on multiple levels. Our center participates in the latest research being done on EFT so we can be on the cutting edge of how this model evolves. We stay involved in training other professionals so we can disseminate this model and keep a close pulse on how EFT is impacting different communities. We engage with our clients deeply and allow them to shape us as therapists and as human beings.

Our team holds a foundational humanistic and empathic way of seeing ourselves and others. We represent a variety of life experiences, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and spiritual beliefs, and believe this diversity deepens our mission to celebrate all people for their basic universal human needs for connection. We embrace everyone that comes through our doors so they feel safe, valued, and cared for.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If we had to start over, it would behoove us to have consultation with an expert in business and marketing earlier on in our endeavor as we learned by skinning our knees a lot. We so deeply believed in what we were doing and offering that it didn’t stop us, but it did slow us down, and having consultation would have saved us a lot of time and frustration. Our graduate programs and additional advanced trainings in psychotherapy taught us well how to do therapy, but left an enormous gap in knowing how to run a business.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 95 North Marengo Ave.
    Suite 200
    Pasadena, CA 91101
  • Website: www.EFTResourcecenter.com
  • Phone: (626) 460-3175
  • Email: silvina.irwin@gmail.com


Image Credit:

Brian Joseph

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