Questions and Answers

     I was born in Virginia and have one younger brother. My father was a pastor and my mother a teacher. I’m married to Sherri Gentry Stone, registered nurse, and we have four children and eight grandchildren. I’m a graduate of Lee College (B.A.) Georgia State University (M.Ed.), and The University of Alabama (Ph.D.). I began private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor in 1992. I joined the faculty of Lee University in 1998 where I continue to serve as tenured Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology. I currently teach graduate classes including “Introduction to Addictions”, “Therapeutic Spirituality: Suffering, Forgiveness and Self-Care”, “Counseling Theories and Techniques”, and “Emotionally Focused Therapy” (EFT) along with supervision of graduate internships. In my leisure I enjoy walking my dogs, college football, golf with friends, camping with my wife and especially entertaining our grandchildren.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a counseling specialty?

Over the span of my career I’ve engaged a variety of therapeutic specialties including cognitive-behavioral therapy, business coaching, mediation (Rule 31), and advanced supervision. However, I’ve found my therapeutic home in Emotionally Focused Couple’s Therapy. I appreciate the research that supports EFT and find the therapy has lasting results for many of the couples I serve. I’m also a fan of John Gottman’s work and sometimes blend the two approaches during the initial or final stage of therapy.

What is EFT?

EFT, founded by Dr. Sue Johnson, is a thoroughly researched and evidence-based therapy rooted in attachment theory, family systems theory, and person-centered therapy. It has a documented success rate of 73% and an improvement rate of 90%. It provides a roadmap of recovery for couples who have either drifted apart through neglect and distractions or have been driven apart by painful attachment injuries such as an affair. EFT is a structured therapy engaging three unique stages. The first stage is de-escalation of the current crisis and increased awareness of the destructive cycles of withdrawal and isolation that threaten the future of the relationship. The second stage involves increasing emotional awareness of harmful relationship patterns, addressing trust and forgiveness, creating corrective emotional experiences, and experiencing emotional reengagement. The third stage develops new and lasting relationship bonds based on sensitivity to attachment needs and emotional safety.  

I recommend Sue Johnson’s best-selling book “Hold Me Tight” (Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love). Also, YouTube has several posts by Sue Johnson that you might find educational and helpful.

The Gottman Institute

I completed level I and II training with the Gottman Institute and I’ve found it to be very compatible with EFT. The Gottmans are personal friends with Sue Johnson and they share a passion for research in couple’s therapy. Although Johnson’s work is more experiential and Gottman’s work more prescriptive, they are not conflicting. I often use some of Gottman’s techniques early in therapy when a couple needs immediate intervention. Even small changes to routine such as how a couple says hello and goodbye can make a difference. Also, addressing the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” (criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling) can help with de-escalation. Near the end of therapy, some of Gottman’s problem-solving techniques can pave the way through stage three of EFT. 

I recommend “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman. He also has a variety of posts on YouTube.

What to reasonably expect from marriage counseling

At the risk of over-simplifying, this therapy is about establishing or re-establishing emotional closeness. What I find most satisfying is to see a couple recover from a devastating event such as an affair, severe illness, or other tragedy. Or, to witness a couple rediscover closeness after a long period of drifting apart. Although each couple is unique, I sense a couple has “arrived” when they can co-regulate each other’s emotional state and calm, comfort, and soothe one another. Furthermore, when they become confident in their ability to positively impact the other and equally confident in the dependability of their spouse to be available. I also look for genuine appreciation of the other’s qualities. Whereas attraction may begin with a checklist of desirable attributes, genuine attachment love entails loving your partner’s idiosyncrasies simply because they belong to your partner. I may hear things like “I love his quirkiness” or “I love her enthusiasm” because it is who he or she is to them. Such genuine appreciation signifies an intimate bond. The last thing I look for in an intimate and healed couple is the return of joy and the ability to laugh and play together. I love to end therapy on such a high note.

EFT & Christianity

I’ve been a Christian most of my life and found that being in touch with my spirituality makes me a more sensitive and effective therapist. I’ve used EFT effectively with couples of all spiritual backgrounds including atheists. So, you certainly don’t have to be a Christian to benefit from EFT. On the other hand, EFT is very compatible with Christian beliefs and couples who share a spiritual connection tend to heal sooner. Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer authored a book called “Created for Connection”. It is the “Hold Me Tight” guide for Christian couples and I recommend it for those seeking a Christian perspective to therapy through the lens of EFT.

What is unique about the counseling you provide?

That’s a hard question because I’m hesitant to take credit for something that may not be as unique as I think. Obviously, I’m highly indebted to the work Dr. Susan Johnson and Dr. John Gottman. I have no shame in imitating their work to the best of my ability. However, to my knowledge, I have a unique approach to trust and forgiveness that is partially based on neuro-science and largely based on my decades of experience with couples who struggle with trust issues. I’m seeing some powerful breakthroughs and I hope to formalize my thoughts soon. I also teach an unusual yet very effective approach to understanding the role of attachment in arguments and I teach couples how to have difficult conversations without blowing up.

Do you ever see individual clients?

Most of my clients are couples. I have a few long-term clients I now see in a business or personal coaching relationship. EFT can be used with individuals. I prefer a more intensive interview with individuals to explore therapeutic fit. I try to make time for anyone who is searching. If I can’t help them myself, I have a number of quality colleagues to recommend.

Are there any ages or types of couples you prefer?

I work with couples of all ages. Since I’m now a little older myself, I especially enjoy working with mid/late life couples because I think I get what they might be experiencing. I’m especially invested in assisting baby boomer couples who are dealing with major life transitions including retirement, grief, dating, remarriage and family blending. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see couples who have been drifting apart for years rediscover closeness. Some even have a second (EFT) honeymoon!

Are there any couples you will not see?

There are just a few types of couples I will not try to help. The first disqualifier is abuse. EFT by nature opens up a lot of vulnerability so I will not empower an abusive relationship. Secondly, I will only attend to one relationship at a time. If one or both parties are emotionally involved with persons outside the marriage, such as an ongoing affair or open marriage relationship, the situation is too emotionally complicated for therapy. Third, if either party has reached what Gottman defines as contempt, there is little hope for the relationship. I need to know both parties are sincerely invested in saving the relationship.

What is the cost of marriage counseling?

Setting a price for therapy is always awkward. I wish I could do it for free! Unfortunately, I still have to make a living. Ha! My EFT colleague in Atlanta collects $250 for a 50 minute session. Thanks to Lee University providing my office space, I can charge significantly less. I don’t take insurance due to the bureaucratic and confidentiality complications. However, I try to stay close to co-payment amounts. I charge $120 for a 50 minute session and $180 for a ninety minute session. (Those who travel some distance prefer the longer sessions.) I offer a discount to seniors (65+) and veterans. I hope that helps some of you. For the rest of you, biting the bullet on marriage therapy expense might be compared to buying a kitchen appliance. Usually, therapy lasts 8-15 sessions depending on the severity of distress, so you might budget $800 to $1500. Frequent and consistent visits have the best outcome. However, I’m glad to work with your budget and schedule. You can always spread your sessions out to make them more affordable.

What to expect in the first session

The first session is a two-hour session. For the first 45 minutes I interview one partner while the other fills out intake information and inventories. Then we reverse the process and I interview the other partner. After interviewing both partners individually, we meet together to assess the relationship and potential for progress. We will not meet separately after the first meeting unless special circumstances arise. Payment is due at the end of each session. I take cash or check and receipts are provided by the session or at the end of therapy.

Where are you located?

My office is located at 1250 Parker Street in the Humanities Building at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. It is a three-story building in the middle of campus with a clock on top of the building. Normally, there is ample parking in the rear of the building. The office number is 301 and an elevator is located in the center of the building. Occasionally I have appointments between university hours. Please call me on my cell at 423-614-6903 if you find the doors locked.

What are your hours?

I take daytime appointments from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Thursday. 

I also take evening appointments 5:00 to 7:00 Monday through Thursday. 

I take Friday morning appointments 9:00 to 12:00.

I do not see clients on the weekend. My office is closed between Christmas and New Years.

Do you provide professional supervision?

Yes, I am an Approved Supervisor by AAMFT. I supervise both MFT and LPC candidates for licensure. I also provide supervision for those qualifying to be MFT supervisors. My fee is $80 for individual, $40 for triadic, and $25 for group supervision. Twice a year (December and July) I host a five-hour group intensive for $100. 

I take a developmental approach to supervision where I try to meet the supervisee where they are in their clinical experience and skills. Usually, a session begins with any pending ethical or legal issue followed by case presentation and attention to professional self-care.