When is couples therapy likely to be most successful?
The couples who I am most successful with can say “Yes!” to the following statements:
- You are clear that you still love one another and have no desire to split up
- You each have a strong desire to know what you need to change, rather than focusing on how your partner needs to change
- You have a genuine interest in learning to create a relationship culture of fondness and appreciation together
- You are committed to learning and using tools for working through differences, misunderstandings and arguments constructively
- Your relationship is free of emotional and physical abuse, problematic substance use, and previous or current affairs
- You are ready to be accountable for using the tools learned in the sessions between meetings
How would you describe the therapy process and how long it takes?
My approach is divided into four modules of three sessions each. Each module focuses on learning and applying skills that are essential for a positive relationship, and each is based on solid research about couples that will help you better understand and navigate the inevitable reactivity that is part of any important relationship.
The first two modules are based on the Gottman research. They address how to build a positive culture of appreciation and admiration between you, and how to have conflict and repair conversations effectively.
The third module focuses on your nervous system—the fight, flight and freeze response—from the perspective of Polyvagal Theory, and how it fits in with your relationship responses under stress.
The fourth module focuses on your attachment strategies, the negative dynamic that goes into motion when you set off each other’s attachment alarm bells, and how to communicate differently in those key moments.
The total is twelve sessions. I ask that you commit to that period of time, preferably on a weekly basis for greatest benefit.
What can we expect after going through the process with you?
My goal in this process is to introduce you to and give you an experience of relationship tools and skills that work. For many couples this is enough to get them on track with applying the practices needed to create a great relationship moving ahead.
For some, however, it may become clear as we work that you could benefit from working on a more in-depth level therapeutically in some areas. Should this be the case, at the end of our time together I will refer you to a colleague who is qualified to do that kind of work.
How can we be sure that you won’t take sides?
I am skilled at creating a safe context in which each of you feels deeply understood, validated, and respected. I am also well-trained in recognizing and interrupting the criticize-defend or criticize-counter criticize pattern in which most couples get caught.
“It takes two to tango” is very applicable when it comes to couples dynamics. You each have a part in the negative dance you do together, whether you are aware of it or not. You both need to learn different steps to make it a positive one. The first step is to stop blaming one another, and it is my job to help you do just that.