Q & A with Dr. Sue Johnson – Author, Clinical Psychologist, and Professor

Dr. Sue Johnson

Dr. Sue Johnson

We had the great pleasure of chatting with Dr. Sue Johnson – one of the leading innovators in the field of couples therapy. Dr. Johnson is a clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, and popular speaker, and the author of the best-selling book: Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. She is also the founding Director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy and Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California, as well as Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

  1. To get us started, we’d love to learn about your background. You’re an author, clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, and presenter! Tell us more about your impressive resume and what an average day is like for you.
  2. How did you become interested in psychology in the first place? Was there a specific moment when you knew it was the right field for you?
  3. So then how did you arrive in this specific field of psychology? What drew you to couples therapy? (You’ve even written incredible books on the topic!)
  4. Talk a little bit about how your education helped you get to where you are today. What was the educational experience like?
  5. In addition to your work at uOttawa, you are also a Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California. What are you current research and interests?
  6. What advice would you give to someone who was considering a career in your profession? What should they consider before pursuing this career path?

1) MastersInCounseling.org: To get us started, we’d love to learn about your background. You’re an author, clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, and presenter! Tell us more about your impressive resume and what an average day is like for you.

An average day starts with looking at emails – seeing what key phone calls I have that day, interviews with the press (Love Sense came out just two months ago!), and talking to my assistant about future events such as webinars or presentations. I also write for a few hours, talk to my grad students about their research, and arrange PP slides for presentations. Some days I go into my institute (ICEEFT) to see three clients or so. I don’t really have an “average day” – I teach, write, talk to my 40 trainers who train Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) all over the world, sort out issues, and plan presentations.

2) MastersInCounseling.org:How did you become interested in psychology in the first place? Was there a specific moment when you knew it was the right field for you?

I was a special education teacher and went to a residential treatment center for disturbed adolescents. I became fascinated by therapy and ran groups – did family therapy – moved from teaching reading to being fascinated by psychological growth. I decided to get a doctorate and got HOOKED by distressed couples because no one knew how to help them.

3) MastersInCounseling.org: So then how did you arrive in this specific field of psychology? What drew you to couples therapy? (You’ve even written incredible books on the topic!)

I find relationships – dialogue and intimate connection – fascinating. I like drama and studied English lit in my first degree. Intense emotion always grabs me. (My books, Hold Me Tight and Love Sense, explains why.) Growing up in a pub and watching folks fight and court and reach for each other was also part of it.

(Dr. Johnson is the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) which has demonstrated its effectiveness in over 25 years of peer-reviewed clinical research.)

4) MastersInCounseling.org:Talk a little bit about how your education helped you get to where you are today. What was the educational experience like?

My doctorate was great because I was allowed to make my own program. I did twice as many courses as I needed and completed a huge dissertation.

(Dr. Johnson received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of British Columbia in 1984.)

5) MastersInCounseling.org: In addition to your work at uOttawa, you are also a Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California. What are you current research and interests?

I want to create programs for couples facing illness, such as heart disease, and test them to show that bonding events in EFT trigger oxytocin.

(Dr. Johnson also trains therapists in EFT worldwide and consults to Veterans Affairs, the U.S. and Canadian military and New York City Fire Department.)

6) MastersInCounseling.org: What advice would you give to someone who was considering a career in your profession? What should they consider before pursuing this career path?

Choose a program where you can follow your heart. I chose counseling psychology, not clinical psychology, because I had more freedom. And find something that absolutely fascinates you to study!

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