Working with couples is a significant part of my practice. Through my post-graduate training in Marriage and Family Therapy, I see couples through a systemic lens that helps uncover the patterns and presenting problems that were often there in some form or another early on.
In order to get to the root of these issues, I work with couples to help them identify their negative cycle and the underlying themes and emotions. Then we work together to identify and regulate their emotions, and to learn how to express them clearly to their partners.
I often work with Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) which is a structured approach to couples counseling that is based on the science on adult attachment and bonding. This approach is used to expand our understanding about what is happening in the relationship.
A substantial body of research outlining the effectiveness of EFT now exists. Studies show that 70 -75 % of couples working with EFT therapists move from relationship distress to recover, and approximately 90% show significant improvements.
I also work with the Gottman Method which uses counseling techniques to increase affection, understanding, and respect. This method stresses conflict management rather than conflict resolution, acknowledging that some elements of conflict are inherent in all relationships. The goal is to reframe negative conflict patterns into positive interactions and dialogue that can repair.
I can attest that in my own marriage which has lasted 36 years, we wish we would have known sooner than later some of the things we have learned. It would have saved a lot of time and unnecessary anguish.
Couples Counseling Methods:
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)
The Gottman Method
Imago Relationship Therapy
Analysis of Patterns of Communication
Recommended Books for Couples
- Love is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding, by Dr. Aaron Beck
- The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
- The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, by Dr. John Gottman
- What Makes Love Last, by Dr. John Gottman
- Hold Me Tight, by Dr. Sue Johnson
- Mating in Captivity, by Ester Perel
Premarital Counseling is a specialized type of counseling that is proactive and highly useful to help couples develop a healthy foundation for their relationship. The goal of premarital counseling is not only to identify any potential areas of conflict, but also to provide couples with effective strategies for resolving differences in a way that strengthens the relationship over time – rather than the alternative in which the relationship is diminished due to avoidance of the issues.
In premarital counseling we look at alignment in areas of:
- individual philosophies in life
- concepts of self
- levels of maturity
- aspects of preferred social engagement
- attitudes around finances
- personality types
- personal styles
- communication and decision-making styles
- individual views of how each partner perceives the future
I use a variety of assessment formats, and provide exercises and resources to help couples learn more about themselves and each other. My belief is that couples who decide to be proactive are more likely to get started on the right foot from the beginning. It is one of the best investments they can make with what is probably the most important decision of their lives – the commitment to another person.
I am certified in Prepare/Enrich, and the MBTI Interpretive Step II Assessments. Both are platforms that provide a shared language that couples can use to begin to better understand each other, and to have some of these essential conversations.
Are you in or out?
Should you stay or should you go?
Are you trying to make a decision if it is even worth trying to save this relationship?
Do you and your partner have mixed agendas?
What is Discernment Couple Counseling?
The word discern means the ability to judge well. The concept of Discernment Couple Counseling, developed by William Doherty, is a time-limited approach that helps you make a thoughtful choice as to how you would like to proceed in your relationship. The typical course is 4-6 sessions. You and your partner do not have to be aligned – the goal is to make an informed, and ideally shared decision about the best course of action for your relationship. The work involves both couple and individual sessions, as each person has to decide somewhat independently whether to work on the relationship, or move toward some type of closure.
I work with couples in this format when couples have not decided together what they want to do, or when one person wants out of the relationship and the other person is motivated to work on it. Without the dedicated effort by two motivated people, there is no contract for couples therapy – and sometimes that is what needs to be determined first.
I can help you work through the process of identifying and evaluating the issues for both parties, and help describe and clarify the options.
Recommended Books for Coping with and Healing from Affairs
- When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships, by Mira Kirshenbaum
- Not Just Friends: Protect Your Relationship from Infidelity and Heal the Trauma of Betrayal, by Shirley P. Glass
- After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust when a Partner has been Unfaithful, Updated Second Edition, 2013, by Janis Abrahms Spring
- How Can I Forgive You?, by Janis Abrahms Spring
- Getting Past the Affair: A Program to Help You Cope, Heal, and Move On, by Douglas Snyder, Donald Baucom, and Kristina Coop Gordon
- Healing from Infidelity, by Michele Weiner-Davis
Affairs comes in all forms and sizes. And the way that people view an affair and its impact on a marriage can fall on a wide spectrum – from that of a superficial misstep that needs to be worked through and understood, to that of the ultimate threat to the relationship from which there seems to be no return.
Often an initial goal in counseling is to create safety and stability to manage the crisis, and foster more open and honest expression of emotions so that each partner can be heard in a more balanced way. I use a structured approach to meet the couple where they are, and work in a collaborative manner to provide the space and language needed to work through common themes found in recovering from an affair.
- Rebuilding trust and reducing suspicion
- Reclaiming loyalty and connections
- Regulating jealousy
- Searching for understanding
- Diminishing uncertainty
- Seeking forgiveness
- Letting go of the negative tone and desire for retribution
- Managing ambivalence and concerns about the future
- Looking to the future and coming to resolution about whether to remain together
There are stages in the healing process, and my goal is to help couples work through these stages in the best way possible. In my experience, couples who are willing to engage in constructive conversations about what has happened, who set realistic expectations, and who come with a dedicated persistence are the ones most likely to find the clarity needed to make the best decisions moving forward. I see many couples who are able to repair and build a better relationship than they ever imagined.