As a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist, I use Dr. John Gottman's research-based assessments and counseling techniques to help you reduce negativity and rebuild the intimacy in your relationship. I also have advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy and integrate this approach in my work with couples. Getting to emotion is an important part of this work, and my job will not be to soothe you but to teach you how to self-soothe and soothe your partner so you can be a port in the storm and create a safe haven for each other. It is my firm belief that we can get to the root of your relationship problems without either of you feeling as though you're about to be identified as the “pathological partner” or the one who is deficient or bad. Instead, we'll work in a respectful, collaborative way to help you deepen your understanding of each other as well as strengthen the friendship that is a vital part of repair.
How the therapy is structured:
We need to do a thorough assessment of relationship strengths and weaknesses so that the areas we target are not based on guesswork but on science. With this in mind, we will have several sessions devoted solely to assessment and treatment planning. Our first session we will cover three areas. First we will cover both of your views about what brings you into couples therapy including your hopes and fears about therapy. We call this the couple's narrative. Next we ask you to tell the story of how you met and how you became a couple including your first impressions of each other. We call this the couple's oral history. Finally we ask you to select a current problem which you have not yet resolved and for ten minutes discuss it with each other. We call this a communication sample of how you discuss a problem at home. This helps me understand what you do well and what you could work on. Finally at the end of the first session, I will send you a detailed set of electronic Gottman questionnaires to complete on your own before we meet for the second session.
The second session is divided into two 45 minute individual sessions, one for you and one for your partner. The last 30 minutes of the two hour second session is with both of you present for goal setting and preliminary assessment feedback. During your individual session we will discuss your individual history as well as any other topics you consider relevant. Anything discussed in an individual session can and maybe brought up in later couple sessions. I do not keep secrets.
At this point we'll schedule a third couples meeting to give you additional feedback from the assessment process. We will also cover the Gottman Sound Relationship House Theory of relationships and begin the work of therapy.
While in treatment couples use Gottman research based exercises in sessions and between sessions to improve their friendship and intimacy, soften their startup of discussions and spend time most days having a stress reducing conversation. In sessions we focus on helping you and your partner understand each other better and teach you ways to turn your conflict into ways to emotionally connect. You will begin to understand the emotional triggers inside your arguments and learn ways to repair and stay out of emotional flooding which can lead to the emergence of the four horsemen- criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These are the major predictors of divorce.
You will be able to understand the personal dreams and longings that are hidden inside your gridlocked arguments and use them to improve your emotional connection. Finally we teach you how to have a recovery conversation after your arguments and how to create shared meaning and rituals of connection in your daily lives to maintain the gains you have made in therapy and avoid relapse in the future.
If there is enough progress over time, we may be able to move to less frequent sessions and eventually, when therapy goals have been met, we will begin to phase out treatment over time. Beyond that, we will schedule 2 sessions for follow up: 1 session after 6 months and another after 12 months. Research also shows that these type of "tune-ups" significantly reduce the chance for relapse.
At the end of therapy, most people tell me that couples therapy was a positive emotional experience and that they benefitted from and enjoyed the sessions as well as the homework and exercises.
When couples therapy is not the right choice
Couples therapy is contraindicated when there is a history of ongoing physical violence in the relationship. Also, as long as one partner is involved in an affair and is not ready or willing to admit and/or give up the affair, I cannot provide couples therapy. In these cases I sometimes recommend a thorough couples assessment followed by individual therapy for one or both partners.
Cases of substance abuse
If one or both partners struggle with substance abuse, the abuse itself needs to be addressed by additional specialized treatment. Couples therapy can be offered once treatment for substance abuse has started and has been consistent. Couples therapy can then take place concurrently with ongoing recovery treatments and programs- including 12 Step approaches and/or other approaches.
Marathon Couples Coaching Sessions
If a couple wishes to focus on an issue in a more intense fashion or if there are logistical reasons that make weekly sessions difficult, I offer marathon Couples Coaching Sessions.
I also offer private intensive Gottman therapy retreats that usually meet Friday evening through Sunday late afternoon. They offer the equivalence of five months of weekly 45 minute couples therapy sessions in a single weekend.
All of my intensive weekend retreats are scheduled exclusively through CouplesTherapyInc.com. Currently all intensives are online due to Covid 19.