SOMETIMES TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE THERAPY ISN’T THE ANSWER
For many couples, the idea of weekly marriage therapy feels too intense. Oftentimes, both spouses are secretly looking for a judge who will tell them who is right. The effectiveness of any couples therapy is dependent upon each spouse’s willingness to focus on themselves and admit they need to modify or alter their behavior or belief system. Doing this in the presence of their partner can trigger feelings of shame and guilt. They might not know what they are experiencing but facing an ugly truth and agreeing in front of a stranger that they need to change is daunting.
To address this fear and help high conflict couples who are triggered by one another, I suggest to keep ‘relationship’ as my client but see each partner individually for a period of time. By helping de-position each spouse and address individual issues they can come back together ready to accept each other’s influence.
Common Issues that require individual couples work:
- Affair Recovery
- Chronic conflict
- Substance Abuse
- Intimacy Issues
- Career Problems
- Life transitions
- Extended Families
- Mood Disorders – anxiety, depression, anger
Confidentiality is discussed and steps are taken to make sure that “secrets” emerging from individual sessions do not obstruct the relationship. I abide by the Open Secrets Policy and help each party understand that in due time important elements need to be shared but not everything. I find that this approach creates safety and structure that nurtures openness and transparency. Since the goal is to help the couple, I help the individual work through each situation in a judgement free way to be available to hear their partner and re-engage in the marriage.
I use the Gottman Model in working with couples. I initially meet with the couple to gather history, assess goals, and identify any areas of current difficulty. I then invite both parties to individually complete the online Gottman couples assessment*. Upon completion I meet with each partner individually to gather personal history and assess individual struggles. Finally, we come together to review their strengths and weaknesses.
At times I refer out for individual work. If one is struggling with their career and that stress is brought home then maybe working with an executive coach is important. Substance use/abuse can get in the way of connecting and therefore a referral to AA or drug counselor is important.
I am a pro-marriage therapist and believe all options need to be exhausted prior to calling an end to a marriage. Sometimes that means being creative or unconventional. In the end if both individuals are fulfilled and committed to one another then the hard work was worth it. Shame and individual struggles shouldn’t get in the way of keeping your relationship in tact. Feel free to contact me for couples work at 818.851.1293
*The Gottman Couples Assessment accurately evaluates relationship trouble spots as well as strengths, and provides personalized tools to create effective interventions. This assessment is geared towards all stages of relationships, whether new relationship, premarital, or marital. The Gottman Couples Assessment is 480 questions in 5 unique sections.