Couples and Relationship Counseling
What is Couples Counseling?
One of my true passions is working with people in relationships. My focus in relationship counseling is on improving communication and problem-solving skills, understanding relationship patterns, increasing empathy and emotional engagement towards one another, which, in turn, improves the sense of connection between partners.
This work can feel more focused and results-oriented than individual therapy may seem at times. The reason I call this both couples and relationship counseling is that I frequently work with polyamorous people who may have more than one primary relationship partner. I also work with many same sex couples, as well as relationships in which one or more partner is transgender.
When and Why Do We Need Couples Counseling?
According to research conducted by John Gottman, most couples wait, on average, six years before seeking counseling for relationship problems. This means that the relationship is in a high level of distress when they finally get to counseling, and it can take a lot of work to make the repairs that are necessary to save and improve the relationship. My wish for couples is that more of them will begin to turn to couples therapy as a preventative measure — a way to learn to take care of their investment in one another and learn skills and tools to help keep their relationship joyful and strong.
Will Our Relationship Make It?
Most couples come to me seeking hope, healing, and repair of a relationship that has experienced some damage and distress. We can work on healing your relationship and learning better ways for you to connect and feel heard and valued. But some people seek couples counseling because they need help disengaging from a relationship with kindness and care. They want to separate in a way that allows them to to be good to one another. This is something I can also help with. Some clinicians feel that all relationships must be saved. I recognize that sometimes relationships need to end or transition into a friendship or something else.
What Brings Couples to Counseling?
Some of the relationship issues I have worked with have included communication problems, sexual issues, navigating consensual non-monogamy, deepening sexual fulfillment and exploring fantasies, recovering from affairs and infidelity, and co-parenting issues. When working with relationships, I sometimes give exercises to practice at home between sessions. While I offer 50 minute sessions for those who want them, I find that 75 minute sessions are usually more effective for relationship counseling and I strongly recommend these longer sessions, especially at the beginning of treatment when we have a lot of work to do together.
In terms of my training and philosophy about working with couples, my strongest influences are Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy and John Gottman’s Relationship Institute work. I have completed Level I and Level II Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I have also completed a 32 hour Clinical Externship in Emotionally Focused Therapy, taught by Sue Johnson. I have also attended Dan Wile’s Collaborative Couples Therapy groups. I obtain as-needed consultation with Hanna Levenson, Ph.D., a Certified EFT Supervisor. If I am bringing my work to Dr. Levenson, you will be made aware of it and I will have you sign a consent form allowing me to discuss your case with her.
If you would like to learn more about these approaches to couples work, I recommend reading John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert and Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight. These books are both written to be easily understood by people who are not mental health practitioners and can help you begin the conversations that can help improve your relationships.