What is couples therapy?
Couples therapy is a form of counseling that focuses on improving the relationship between partners.
In this way couples therapy differs from individual psychotherapy as the relationship and not the individuals within the relationship
is the primary focus of attention. When working with couples I focus on relationship dynamics, the impact that family of origin
and past relationships may contribute to the presenting concern, patterns of communication, and how the relationship manages
trust and intimacy. This process involves tracking how partners relate, understand, respond, and interact with one another. Improving
how couples understand and interact with themselves and one another is a common theme from which to work through conflict
in an empathic manner. Couples therapy is a complex model of intervention and that requires specialized training and
skill development. Before meeting with a clinician to begin couples therapy, ask about their training, the models they draw
from, the length of time they have been practicing couples therapy, and their familiarity with couples’ issues and the
areas that they tend to focus on.
approach to couples’ therapy
started working with families and couples in the 1990’s, and my approach to relational therapy has been evolving ever-since! I am currently training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, or EFT. EFT is a relationship therapy that explores
ways to improve the bond, or attachment, between the members of the couple. Through identifying unhelpful patterns of interaction,
inviting an exploration of emotions, fears, and needs, EFT builds stronger connections and emotional clarity within and between
the members of the relationship.
Couples therapy for
Much of the research and literature published to date on couples’ therapy has focused
primarily on monogamous and heterosexual couples. Clearly, the information obtained from these resources contains important
data and is, in many cases, transferable to therapy with same sex couples and couples that have varied relationship agreements
concerning monogamy. While heterosexual, same sex, and non-traditional couples share many of the same relationship issues,
attachment needs, and struggles, there are challenges faced by same sex couples and non-traditional relationships that differ
from their heterosexual and monogamously pair bonded cohort. In addition, there are also strengths and communication strategies
utilized by same sex couples and non-traditional relationships that can benefit their heterosexual and monogamously pair
bonded counterparts. Recognizing the strengths and challenges of relational diversity can also serve to improve the lives
of all people and relationships. Having extensive clinical experience working with a couples, sexual orientations, and
configurations of intimate relationships, I make it a point to state that all couples and relationship styles are welcomed,
honored, and respected in my practice.
is expected from my partner and I in couples’ therapy?
Couples therapy requires a commitment to work on your relationship, share compatible goals, and
a willingness to risk intimacy and growth. This also includes learning to be more present with yourself and your partner and
moving past your comfort zone to experience one another in new and potentially life altering ways. Couples therapy requires
that all parties be willing explore and share their needs, consider what they have contributed to the relationship strengths
and liabilities, and develop new more emotionally attuned patterns of interacting and experiencing one another.
Preparing for couples’ therapy.
Many clinicians will discuss the couples that they are interested in treating.
This is important as it allows the couple to consider the fit between their presenting issues and the expertise of the couple’s
therapist. However, therapists tend not to discuss those situations and struggles that can undermine the effectiveness of
couples’ therapy. To provide couples with a clear, open and honest line of communication, it's important to provide
folks with a framework of issues that may indicate the couple is not ready for therapy.
If you are seeking couples therapy to get him/her/them to change, but remain
unwilling to look at what you contribute to the current discord in your relationship, you may not be ready for couples’
therapy. If, on the other hand, you are ambivalent and questioning the viability of your relationship, that's A-Okay!
One of the reasons couples come to therapy is to try and salvage their relationship! Not being sure of the outcome of
therapy and being open to this conversation in a non-reactive, albeit emotionally challenging manner, is a central tenet
of couples’ therapy. During the process of therapy old injuries and expectations, sometimes from our family of origin
or past relationship experiences, get re-activated and projected onto one another. This is not to say that relationships
do not have "here and now" struggles; they do! However, being able to discuss these challenges while finding
the strength to let your partner bear witness to and help heal old wounds can change how you experience one another.
If you are looking to convince me that your partner
is “always” wrong and you are “always” right, you may not be ready for couples’ therapy. If,
on the other hand, you are looking to share with your partner how you do not feel heard and you are willing to entertain the
idea that your partner may also have similar feelings and complaints; I may be able to help! Learning to hear and have
compassion for one another can create an environment where you learn to experience moments of connection while also learning
to trust that your partners’ intent is not to harm but to air and resolve unspoken needs.
If you are involved in non-consensual non-monogamy, and have
no interest in working with your partner to understand where these choices and behaviors come from, how to change them,
and how to heal these injuries prior to discussing the possibility of exploring new relational styles,
you may not be ready for couples’ therapy. If you have been the partner of someone who has engaged in non-consensual non-monogamy,
and you are unwilling to risk sharing with your partner how their choices injured you, preferring instead to shame them, you
may not be ready for couple therapy. I am NOT advocating a stance of forgive and forget, that is un-empathic
and lacks compassion. However, remaining in a relationship where one’s pain hardens into unspoken resentment is
more damaging, in the long-run, than the original betrayal. It takes a great deal of courage to share how a loved one’s
behavior and choices have hurt you and how that individual will need to assist you in re-establishing trust. This process
also requires the ability to bear witness to the struggles that lead to your partner’s choice to be sexual outside
of the relationship.
What can we expect in couples’
There is no “one size fits
all” when it comes to psychotherapy, as such treatment is always tailored to the unique needs of the couple. This means
that each therapy is a unique experience for all parties involved. Entering any form of therapy can raise anxieties about
the unknown. Yet, having a basic framework to draw from can make this journey more manageable. When you enter therapy with
me you can expect the following;
supportive environment where the relationship is respected;
• An engaged assessment of your struggles and strengths;
• Exploration of past issues & family dynamics that may impact the here & now;
• An individual session where your perspective will
• A plan help you and
your partner reach your goals;
Skills in learning how to hear and re-discover one another;
• Exploration of new ways to be in relationship with one another;
• Respectful redirection of discussions as needed;
• The development of a voice in your relationship;
• Understanding how to discuss sexual needs and desires;
• Skills in discussing, understanding and & resolving
• Hard work.
Recording therapy sessions
Video and digital recording of therapy sessions is commonly used
to improve the delivery of psychotherapy services to couples and families. By recording couples therapy sessions and obtaining
consultation from other therapists, I will be in a better position to improve the effectiveness of our work together. Prior
to recording therapy sessions, I will need your written consent. Please note that you may decline to have your sessions recorded
without fear of a reduced quality of treatment from your therapist. Video and digitally recorded sessions will not become
part of your medical record and, unless otherwise agreed on, all recorded materials will be destroyed at the completion of
Please be aware that in consultation the strictest
confidentiality and respect for your privacy will be maintained. Neither video or digital recording materials will be shared
beyond the limits outlined in this document. Except for your first names, your voice and images on the recording, there will
be no information that could identify you. Please note, that mental health professionals who may view these video or digital
recordings are bound by law, as well as their professional disciplines code of ethics, to protect your confidentiality as
if you were their own clients.
In you are interested in discussing the possibility of our working together please feel free to contact me at (617) 461-8479
or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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