Couples Psychotherapy

What is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is not about quick fixes, tips & tools; it is about creating deeper connection and making your relationship a great source of emotional attunement, strength and support. Clinical work with couples goes by many names…couples counseling, marriage counseling, marital therapy or couples therapy…they are all simply different names for the same thing: a process of helping couples move from conflict, confusion, suffering, and frustration to greater connection, trust, intimacy and vitality. I welcome the opportunity to work with you and your partner to help you actualize the healthiest relationship you desire.

Getting Started

I begin my work with couples with a focused, in-depth evaluation of the relationship, as well as of each individual.  We’ll discuss the issues at hand, along with any life history and interpersonal experiences that may feel relevant to the problems you are experiencing.  We’ll explore family-of-origin issues and dynamics to help us gain clarity and insight of the here-and-now of your dilemma.  We'll respect the concept that behind emotional distress is an emotional wound (often anchored in formative family relationships), and that anger hides unmet emotional need(s).  We’ll work together to understand the areas of conflict/pain and, perhaps most importantly, also identify your strengths.  We'll celebrate what is positive about your relationship, and make efforts to enjoy your relationship, even while working on areas of tension or conflict! 

My approach to couples counseling is emotionally focused and best defined as a process consultation; meaning that I make it my primary responsibility to help both partners slow down enough so that they can pay attention, witness, and reprocess habitual modes of relating.  Some couples have fallen into rigid, negative interactional cycles.  It may be hard to perceive such cycles of behaviors; that’s where a neutral observer (therapist) can serve a couple in their understanding of their interactional patterns.  I often invite couples to stay in the here-and-now of the session, encouraging their focusing on the emotional context of their interactions.  I will guide a couple to entertaining new ways of being and behaving together that offer mutual trust, connection, and emotional attunement and intimacy.  

I utilize a variety of techniques to help couples explore their relationship within the context of a supportive and emotionally safe space, helping the couple access, express, and interact in a functional and connected manner.  Central to our work will be the emotional truth of each partner, including “attachment style” and “communication style,” and your willingness and ability to learn new ways of relating.  Above all, I will encourage you both to honor conscious choices you are making about your relationship, helping you notice what may be unconscious or habitual negative modes of interacting.  Despite the challenges of the process, I will gently remind you both that you have committed yourself to create a mutually satisfying relationship, a relationship within which you can flourish as individuals as well as partners sharing life’s journey.

What to Expect

Couples therapy sessions usually include both partners.  My assessment process has four parts.  Initially, following our first meeting together, we will schedule individual sessions for each of you to gather as much information as needed to help me know each of you better and for you to have an opportunity to discuss your experience of your partner and the relationship without the other present.  We will then meet together again, at which point I will share my impressions and together we will formulate a mutually designed treatment plan.  Once we agree that couples counseling is the most prudent choice of treatment (individual therapy may be indicated or needed), we will schedule our on-going sessions.  At that point, sessions are scheduled to be 50-minutes or one hour and forty-five minutes long.  I have found that the planning for longer timed sessions (even if it means meeting less often) is a more productive format.  We may meet weekly or every other week depending on your needs and scheduling constraints.  Treatment may be short-term, longer-term, or sequential (a series of sessions with planned breaks to implement the insights/gains made in session).  If a couple is in acute crisis, we may meet on an intensive basis initially, switching to meeting as frequently as you feel helpful once the crisis has stabilized.