My work with you and your partner begins with my providing an emotionally safe environment in which each of you can bring up the "tough subjects" needing to be addressed. Through in-depth discussions we explore these issues from each person's perspective. I do not judge or take sides in this process. Instead, I work with you to clarify and improve your communication, to deepen mutual understanding, and to help you create solutions.
We also focus on enhancing what is best in your relationship. These conversations are a chance to get back in touch with the positive feelings which brought you together in the first place and to actively generate more of what is most loving in your connection with each other.
During our conversations, I help you to:
- Improve and deepen communication
- Improve listening skills
- Work towards full honesty
- Work towards solutions and compromise
- Rebuild emotional safety, trust, and connection
- Increase intimacy
Below are my answers to three questions that often come up when someone is considering couples therapy:
If we can't figure our problems out on our own, how is a stranger who doesn't know us going to help us?
This is a very understandable question if you've never been in couples therapy before. The difficulties in the relationship can feel so personal, complicated, and emotionally charged that talking about them with someone you've never met before can seem like the last thing you want to do. However, when things are stuck in a relationship, having a neutral and compassionate third party who doesn't take sides and who is trained in working with couples, emotions, and communication can actually be a huge help. Sometimes we are so deeply involved in the dynamic with our partners that we can't see the forest for the trees (so to speak), and a fresh perspective and independent feedback can change how you understand what's going on. It can also help to have someone who can coach you through how to communicate more constructively with your partner so that you can get through the logjam to mutual understanding, compromise and healing.
What does couples therapy with you actually look like?
The first session is an initial consultation which means it is a chance for me to get to know you both and the issues between you. It is also a chance for me to begin working with you so that I can assess the possibilities of our working together. This first session is also a chance for the two of you to get a sense of me and what couples therapy with me might be like. Then, at the end of the first session we check-in about how and whether to proceed. Sometimes a couple will want to schedule subsequent sessions right there. Other times a couple will want to wait, think about the first session, and discuss it with each other before deciding whether to schedule more sessions. There is no obligation to schedule subsequent sessions at the end of the first session.
Generally, my couples therapy sessions focus on the issues that are most important to you when you come into the office. We decide together what to focus on. Then I use your communication with each other in session to coach you on how to communicate better. When couples therapy is working well, you actually engage in better communication in session with my guidance. Over the course of the work, there is a combination of healing and movement happening in session related to the issues that have been stuck, and there is also a learning process going on about how to communicate better with each other outside of session.
How do we translate what we learn in your office to what we do outside the office?
This is a great and very important question. Sometimes when people are in the office, they're on their best behavior, and then when they get back out into the “outside” world, they revert back to the old patterns and nothing really changes.
In my work with couples, there are two ways that improvements manifest in your relationship outside the office. One way is that the healing conversations that take place in session naturally and spontaneously inspire renewed feelings of closeness outside the office. These positive feelings then translate into better communication naturally. If that kind of process doesn't start happening at some point fairly early in the therapy, then it should be addressed because it is often a signal that there is a level of communication and connection we're not getting to. The second way lasting change happens is through consciously practicing repeatedly specific communication strategies we practice in session outside the office until they are integrated into how you habitually communicate with each other. I find that, when couples therapy is working well, it is usually a combination of these two processes.