I usually say this at least once a day to someone, and I say it so often because I mean it so much! I find that partners most often seek counseling when things are tough, at a standstill, or not working in some way. Maybe after years and years, your partner is starting to feel like a roommate. Or, has the anger and hostility between you two reached a boiling point? Is the intimacy you once shared seemingly gone? When was the last time you laughed together? Perhaps you are even considering if your relationship can go on.
This is a tough place to be emotionally, and therapy can provide a safe place to talk through your concerns, provide guidance and insight into your struggles, help you in your decision-making process, and build resilience for the future.
In couples therapy, we can work as a team to understand the problems and directly confront the sources of conflict. We focus on patterns of behavior — both patterns that are facilitating your healthy relationships and ones that are destructive for it. Since these patterns rarely develop overnight, they usually don’t change overnight either, so I find a realistic yet motivated attitude to be key.
Regardless of the specific concerns in your marriage — effective communication is usually front and center as we explore these concerns and build skills and tools to do things better. I love to integrate assessments into couples work! Learning more about each partner’s unique personality and behaviors can provide valuable insight into how to move forward.
While couples often come to therapy at some sort of breaking point; the truth is, the earlier partners can get to counseling the better! Then, we have a chance to create healthy patterns of behavior from the outset and can support early habits of effective communication and meaningful connection! To this end, I often get asked, “Do we need to be married for couples therapy?” My answer is “heck no!” If you want to work on your relationship, build it up, improve communication, and feel more connected to your partner, this therapy is a great option for you.
I’ve had specific training in couples therapy, including the Gottman Method, and understand the unique difficulties facing partners and how to support you in therapy. I welcome and work with all types of couples: married, dating, heterosexual, or LGBTQ identified.
– Healthy and effective conflict resolution
– Emotional intimacy
– Processing past hurts in the relationship
– Affairs (both emotional and sexual infidelity)
– Sexual intimacy
– Tools for distress tolerance and how to de-escalate emotions when needed
– Creating shared meaning in life
– Creating mutually satisfying habits and relationship norms
Hands down, the most common fear I hear is that their therapist might “align” with one person or take sides. Let me express this clearly. That is not helpful and is not going to happen in good therapy. I take the approach that “the couple is the client” and working effectively with my client means validating the realities and lived experience of both, and working to explore how each partner’s needs can be better satisfied is at the core of the work. If there is ever a point where individual therapy might be needed to support one partners specific needs, we can talk about that together.
It’ll be awkward. The reality is, most people describe it as somewhat uncomfortable in the beginning. This is a relationship between two people, and here is a third- the therapist, coming in to help. I try to make the couples sessions as dyadic as possible. That means, I want the two of you talking to each other as much as possible! While I can jump in and provide guidance, support, tools often, keeping the focus on you two talking together is most helpful and representative of real life.
One common struggle I hear about couples therapy relates to not wanting to do “silly therapy exercises.” Well, I wouldn’t be a good couple therapist if we didn’t do corny exercises from time to time. There are just some well-known (and evidence-based) activities we can use to move the work forward, deepen it at times, and help us gain a better understanding of the needs in the relationships. I don’t believe the answer to your problems lies on a worksheet. But, I think the right activity at the right moment might help us understand the questions we should be asking, so we can process and come to the answer that works for you as a couple.
Another fear I hear is “What if we are beyond repair?” All I need as a couples therapist is two partners who are willing to try to move their relationship forward or in a new direction.
Lets work together to figure out how to reduce these therapy fears or roadblocks and start working at creating the relationship you want to enjoy. Reach out to explore how couples therapy could be helpful for you!
Samantha Morel, Ph.D.