Having a couple come in weekly and talk about the problem of the week or the crisis of the week is rarely therapeutic. Instead, it should be an orderly process that is a foundation for long term success and an approach for not only improving the relationship, but also maintaining it. Couples therapy should highlight strengths and challenges in your relationship while also suggesting actionable, research based recommendations for therapy. I incorporate a number of different training and therapies with couples. However, my main focus is in the Gottman Method Couples Therapy. This therapy is based on over 40 years of research on couple relationships and focused on what makes relationships succeed or fail. It is designed to teach specific tools and its emphasis is in three general areas:
Couples generally have two stories to tell, feel that if they could solve their problems they would be happy, need a sounding board for their pain, and are looking for hope and understanding. I assess the core issues in relationships and observe how a couple typically deals with those issues together. We build skills and teach tools for a better emotional connection, to build trust and commitment, repair negative events and incidents, and make life dreams come true.
Therapy should be a careful and disciplined process that begins with assessment, goes into a working stage and ends with a maintenance, or follow-up, period.
Assessment Phase: We perform a systematic, careful assessment of your relationship before beginning treatment. This will generally be completed in a few sessions. We will talk about the history of your relationship, areas of concerns and goals for treatment. We will also discuss your personal goals and give you an opportunity to share your thoughts, feelings and perceptions. This phase also includes the on-line “Couple Checkup” assessment. This clinical tool is completely confidential, HIPAA compliant, and research-based to help couples build a personalized treatment plan with your therapist.
Working Stage: We work on the three general aspects or the therapy process- helping couples manage conflict, build friendship and love, and create shared meaning together-in specific exercises in session, in order to be integrated into the relationship outside of therapy.
Maintenance Period: A series of sessions at differing times such as monthly, every 6 months or yearly to “test out” relationship skills and prepare for termination. These types of sessions have been shown to decrease chances of relapse into previous, unhelpful patterns, and are used to fine-tune skills learned throughout the therapy process.