One of the reasons I obtained specialized training with couples is that couple therapy is often more useful than individual therapy if the presenting problem is relational. It is important that couples become able to articulate their wishes in a clear, honest, respectful manner. Couples need support and safety, but too often their behavior causes harm and suffering. This is true even among couples who report feeling love and loyalty to one another. It can be difficult to maintain a committed, monogamous relationship. Break-ups occur more often than I suspect is necessary. This happens when people are unable to relate in the respectful, loving manner associated with healthy adults in well functioning partnerships.
Although I see many clients for individual therapy, I still like to have at least one or two meetings with the significant other, if appropriate. Even meeting the partner or family a few times helps to illuminate the problems of the primary patient and may reveal how the family is helping or interfering with the growth of one or more of its members.
Family or couple meetings often help the partner of the patient. They can help prevent conscious or unconscious sabotage of the therapy. I often learn background information that is critical to treatment which might never have emerged without the input of significant others. Meeting with the significant other often helps to prevent a break-up resulting from a mis-perception by the significant other of therapist bias favoring the client. Like individual therapy, I see couple and family therapy as a collaborative process.
The following is a list of some of the topics/issues which I treat in couple therapy:
- Communication – reflective/active listening; This is harder than it seems.
- Differences and similarities in genders and how these can impact relating and sex
- Roles – how flexible or rigid are the roles each plays in the family; are there roles we don’t like
- Boundaries- how to set them, including saying yes, no, and to do it with grace.
- Respect and Values – clarification -assessment; Do you have values in common and do you each feel you live up to your own standards of how to treat a partner? How do you both identify and manage values differences between you in a respectful, non critical manner?
- Cultural/religious/ethnic/socio-economic/educational similarity or differences- often source of attraction in the beginning of a relationship but can lead to conflict when integrating differences.
- Sexuality – infidelity, discrepant desire, dysfunction, lack of desire, orientation, sexual minorities, unorthodox practices
- Parenting and Executive Functioning – sharing and dividing responsibilities for running a household, perhaps raising children, and doing so in a manner that seems equitable to both of you.
Seeking HelpIf you are seeking couple therapy, I usually like to do an initial consultation with both members, preferably at the same time. If this isn’t possible, I am willing to talk to each person separately before scheduling an appointment.To take a relationship satisfaction quiz, please visit the following site.
To see books I recommend on relationships and couples please go here.