What You Need To Know
If you are struggling with issues in your relationship couples therapy can help. Maybe you're having the same arguments over and over that never gets resolved. It may be that there has been infidelity and neither one of you knows how or if you can get through it. Most couples that come in for couples therapy have been having serious problems for several years. You need to feel that things can get better and that you will see results as quickly as possible. The one positive thing about working on issues together is that you can see changes relatively quickly. The fundamental idea behind couples therapy is that if you can change the dynamics within the relationship and experience yourself and your partner differently, for most people this will translate into a change within yourself. Because I am seeing you both together I can also get an unbiased idea of what is going on. You’re not reporting to me what your spouse is doing, I’m watching how you respond to each other. My approach is to first determine what it is that is keeping you stuck in your relationship. There are usually patterns we repeat over and over again that are part of a negative loop. If you can each be clear about what you do that keeps you stuck, you can begin to make the positive changes you want in your marriage. I help you each focus on concrete steps you need to make in order to begin to reconnect and reach out towards each other. Once you make these changes in the way you respond to each other you are on the road to the kind of marriage you have always wanted.
The First Session
It is important for me to get a clear understanding of the changes you want to see and what is keeping you stuck, which is what the first session is all about. The first session involves 30 minutes with each of you and 15-30 minutes at the end with both of you together to discuss my recommendations as to how to proceed. I will give each of you a questionnaire to fill out while I am interviewing your partner and you will leave it with me at the end of the session. This first session helps me gather the information I need to best help you. The sessions that follow are for the most part the joint sessions with both of you together. This is the quickest way to see change. And because most couples starting therapy have had significant problems for six years on average, according to the research of John Gottman, by the time you come into my office you need help fast. A good couples therapist is not looking at you as individuals but looking at your relationship as a whole. That may seem like a minor detail but it is a very distinct difference. I'm not trying to find out who is wrong or more "damaged" or "unhealthy". I'm looking at the dynamics between you and where things may be going wrong.
During the initial session I will be trying to understand and take in each persons point of view. I am doing that to create a picture of the whole relationship. My ultimate goal is to help each of you begin to clarify what YOU can do to change things. We are all very clear on what someone else has done to hurt us but usually have very little understanding as to what we are doing to keep a negative situation going. The quicker you see your part and the concrete changes that you need to make the quicker change happens. I am also trying to assess any crisis areas that need to change right away, such as infidelity or disrespect/aggression. The first session usually takes 90 minutes.
How Do We Know It's Working?
The change you begin to see initially depends on the issues you come in with. The most common issue I see in couples involves communication. Even when there are other issues that may seem unrelated like infidelity or sexual problems, there is always a part of it that involves a breakdown in communication. The first change you notice when it comes to problems communicating is that there is less fighting or negativity. Things seem quieter and more peaceful at home. In my sessions I always try to give couples a road map for their issues. This involves things like what usually causes problems, what each can do to make things better and what each may be doing to make things worse. Once things feel calmer it becomes easier for each person to take this in and bring it to situations outside of the therapy sessions. I tell all of my clients that the real change comes from what you each do at home, outside of my office.
The 90 Minute Session
I do offer couples 90 minute sessions. Research has shown that 90 minutes is an ideal amount of time for couples to be able to get to the issues and gain the clarity and coaching from the therapist to better see the changes they need to make. In each session I also want each of you to see the things you may have done differently that may have led to a better week or being able to recover from an argument. If you have more difficult and intense issues, such as recently discovering your partner has been unfaithful, a 90 minute session may be something I recommend. Even though these sessions are more expensive and time consuming it usually means fewer sessions are needed to get the results you are looking for. If you have questions about this longer session format we can discuss this during our first session.