COUPLES AND MARITAL THERAPY
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone. We find it with another.”
Your primary relationship is the most important one in your life, and even the happiest of couples will face challenges and obstacles along the way. I work with couples to help them reconnect, improve their communication and rebuild trust. My clients include couples of all kinds, married or partnered, straight and gay couples, new and newly engaged couples, those in long-term relationships, and couples in crisis. I help couples break down barriers, so that each partner can see the other’s side of an issue.
I also specialize in guiding couples through such difficulties as long-standing areas of conflict, infidelity, divorce, and comorbidities such as mental illnesses or addictions that may be affecting the partnership. This is the work of what I call, “making the relationship a more conscious one,” and this work reflects the challenges that many couples face in the first several years or more of their relationship. A deeper and more transformative relationship can follow, but only when couples learn how to communicate well, manage conflicts effectively, and take responsibility for themselves and their part in the relationship.
Challenges to relationships can come from many areas. Some of the areas that I specialize in with couples include the following:
- Pre-Marital Counseling
- Adjustment to Marriage
- Parenting Issues
- Transition to Empty Nest
- Transition to Retirement
- Chronic Illness
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Conflict Management
- Building or rebuilding intimacy
- Communication/Co-Parenting following separation/divorce
- Addiction and Recovery
- Domestic Violence
- Couples and ADD
- LGBT Couples
I have completed Level 3 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and use this in our therapy work. I have also been trained in Susan Johnson’s Focused Couple Therapy which provides an innovative road map for creating stronger, more secure relationships.
My initial approach to working with couples is to ensure that partners learn practical skills to improve the friendship in their relationship and help them manage conflict in a positive way. This approach can not only support and repair troubled marriages and committed relationships, but also strengthen happy ones. It begins with a thorough assessment of the couples’ relationship and integrates research-based interventions based on proven theories of healthy relationships. This assessment process helps to inform the therapeutic framework and interventions that follow.
The interventions that I use in this work are designed to help couples strengthen their relationships in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning. Couples learn to replace negative conflict patterns with positive interactions and to repair past hurts. Interventions designed to increase closeness and intimacy are used to improve friendship, deepen emotional connection, and create changes that enhance the couples’ shared goals. I also help couples to avoid relapses.
The goals are to disarm conflicting verbal communication, increase intimacy, respect and affection, remove barriers that create a feeling of stagnation in conflict situations, and create a heightened sense of empathy and understanding within the context of the relationship.
Essential tools that are developed throughout this work include:
- Understanding your partner’s inner psychological world, history, worries, stresses, joys, and hopes.
- Strengthening fondness and admiration by focusing on expressing affection and respect within the relationship.
- Becoming more aware of “bids” for connection and learning how to turn towards instead of away.
- Developing a positive approach to problem-solving and making repairs.
Learning how to “manage” (vs. resolve) conflict and appreciate that conflict has functional and positive aspects.
- Understanding the difference in handling perpetual problems and solvable problems.
- Creating an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her hopes, values, convictions and dreams.
- Understanding important visions, narratives, myths, and metaphors about your relationship.
Throughout this work, I try to help each couple build a strong sense of trust in one another and in their relationship, so that each person knows that his or her partner acts and thinks to maximize that person’s best interests and benefits, not just the partner’s own interests and benefits.
Ultimately, the transformative aspect of this work, carried to its completion in my consulting room and extended into the ongoing life of the couples’ relationship, comes with a strong, felt sense of commitment. This means believing, and acting on the belief, that your relationship with your partner is completing your lifelong journey, for better or for worse. It implies cherishing your partner’s positive qualities and nurturing gratitude by comparing the partner favorably with real or imagined others, rather than trashing the partner by magnifying negative qualities, and nurturing resentment by comparing unfavorably with real or imagined others.
Session 1: This is a conjoint session (90 minutes) during which I conduct an assessment of the your relationship. The purpose of this is to understand the reasons that you are coming to therapy, how you view your problem, and what your goals are. Part of this process involves providing a narrative of your situation as each of you understand it, your history of their current situation and dilemma, and your hopes for therapy. This is an essential need of all couples coming to therapy.
I will also explore the overall history of your relationship, how each of you views this history, and your philosophy of relationships. I will then sample an area of ongoing disagreement that is a problem for both of you.
Finally, I will direct you to a website that allows both of you to complete a series of questionnaires that will be used to identify strengths and weaknesses with the relationship. The results of these questionnaires will be shared in Session 3.
Session 2: In this session I meet with each of you individually (45 minutes each) to learn your personal histories and to give each of you an opportunity to share thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
Session 3: In this session I will offer a summary of what I see as the strengths in the relationship and the areas that need improvement, discuss my recommendations for treatment, and work to define mutually agreed upon goals for your therapy.
Most of the subsequent work will involve sessions where you will be seen together as a couple. However, there may be times when individual sessions are recommended. I will also give you exercises to practice between sessions.
The length of the therapy will be determined by your specific needs and goals. In the course of therapy, we will establish points at which to evaluate your satisfaction and progress. Also, I will encourage you to raise any questions or concerns that you have about therapy at any time.
In the later stage of therapy, we will “phase out” or meet less frequently in order for you to test out new relationship skills and to prepare for termination of the therapy. Although you may terminate therapy whenever you wish, it is most helpful to have at least one session together to summarize progress, define the work that remains, and say good-bye.
In the outcome-evaluation phase, four follow-up sessions are planned: one after six months, one after twelve months, one after eighteen months, and one after two years. These sessions have been shown through research to significantly decrease the chances of relapse into previous, unhelpful patterns. In addition, commitment to providing the best therapy possible requires ongoing evaluation of methods used and client-progress. The purpose of these follow-up sessions then will be to fine-tune any of your relationship skills if needed, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy that you received.