What are your thoughts on Couples Counseling?

Couples Counseling Overview
Every couple is different, every couple is complicated, and every couple has trouble talking about one or more key issues. I help by coaching individuals to take risks, playing referee to keep the sessions safe, and working as a choreographer to help create healthy and honest communication.  My job is not to figure out who is right and who is wrong, my job is to help. 

My Approach: Fresh and Unbiased
I meet each couple as a unique example of love and try to learn about what works and what does not work within the specific relationship circumstances of that couple.  Some very happy couples live with a great deal of friction and conflict while some of the loneliest couples appear content to the outside world.  My approach is not to apply a textbook definition of a happy relationship to every couple I meet, but to tailor my help in a unique fashion.  Each couple has unique needs and each couple gets fresh therapy!  My goal is to resolve issues and promote healing through mutual cooperation, not through blaming and taking sides.

Three Effective Counseling Modalities
One of the first goals we will have as a team is to select the best style of counseling to help you grow or heal.  I have training in three different techniques for helping couples.    
1)  We can choose to use  Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy to focus on depth of connection and processing of feelings. This is more helpful for couples who think too much or have betrayal as a primary topic.  
2)  We can choose to use Imago Couples Counseling which is a structured approach to thoroughly deepening the connection between two people.  The approach uses homework and in-session exercises to facilitate change.  It is a bold and comprehensive approach that is very successful if both parties are motivated and have time to invest in the process.
3) The final option is Co-Therapy for Couples in which you meet with two licensed therapists at the same time. Feel free to read more about this innovative approach for seriously struggling couples.

What is Couples Counseling?

Most of the time and for most couples therapy is the process of talking non-defensively about the major issues of your relationship.  Be advised that my goal in therapy is not to blame or pick sides.  Even if you think that all of your relationship problems exist because of your partner's beliefs or behaviors, that is not a helpful stance in therapy.  I have found that the recipe for successful couples counseling is a pair of motivated workers, ready to put blame aside and start to look at their part in the negative cycle.  It is only when two people show each other that they take the issue seriously and are willing to begin adjusting their beliefs and behaviors that couples grow and healing can begin.

Why do Couples seek Counseling?

Sometimes a relationship can simply reach a point in which you cannot talk about a certain subject without fighting.  If you are a couple looking for therapy, one of you may be feeling unloved, unvalued, and hopeless while another might be feeling nagged, not good enough, or under impossible expectations.  All of these are common feelings associated with the pains of creating a close partnership between unique individuals in the context of our society. Freud said that "we are never more vulnerable then when we are in love." My job is not to change you or your partner but to help add the communication and relationship skills necessary to help your relationship thrive.

Giving What We Want
Our basic human nature leads many of us to give or provide what we want or desire.  Sounds paradoxical? It is.  This error in basic empathy originates from a primitive human wish to be fully understood by the people closest to us. It is the most basic of human errors but also the most common.  The implicit assumption of sameness that is so blatant and destructive within many couples leads us to give our partners what we want instead of what they want.  This applies to how we touch, what we talk about, or even what presents we give.  A common example is frequency of phone contact within couples.  For instance we tend to call our partners (or text) as often and at the times that we would want to be called (or texted).  We tend to give our partners what we want instead of what they want and we can't understand. 

Giving What They Want
First off, our goal as partners is to figure out what it is that we want and then find a kind way to ask for it.  Equally important is the second step in which we find out what our partners want and then give them what they want, even if it makes no sense to us.  This is the core compromise.  The recognition that we are all different people and than no set of needs and wishes is inherently bad or wrong.

Not Easy
Now, sometimes this is not as easy as it sounds because issues crop up in the process of making oneself clear and listening to your partner.  Some couples have problems that must first be addressed before the lines of communication, compromise, and mutual sacrifice can be opened.  Examples of these are: communication problems, financial issues, health concerns, lack of time together, individual history of trauma, or substance use.

Couples Therapy Works
I have found that what helps most couples is not a resolution of the problems at hand but the spirit of joint effort and motivation in therapy that brings satisfaction and happiness back to the couple.  It is this clear and obvious display of love by both parties despite feelings of blame and resentment that lead to growth.  It is really not how much or how intensely you fight, but how well you repair.

Getting Started
So, what will we do when you come into my office.  First, know that I will not take sides, no matter how egregious you think your partner is being, do not expect a complete ally from me.   Research shows that it is only when both partners are showing equal effort and curiosity does a couple begin to heal and grow.  To start, we will take turns outlining your
concerns and then we will attempt to search for simple solutions.  We will test and tinker with our solutions and then begin to look deeper with the aim of discovering each partners hidden wishes.  Trust is built through consistent demonstration of interpersonal learning.  For the more practical reader, this process takes at a minimum 6-8 weeks of weekly meetings.

Learn More?
Check out my thoughts on The Crying Cure for Couples Conflict.  Feel free to read more of my thoughts on counseling in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website. 
I invite you to learn more About Me and to Contact Me if you have any questions. 

My warmest regards,

Jeffrey


MFC #46775
Marriage and Family Therapist

Licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) to practice Marriage and Family Therapy.  Member #80196 of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).