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My approach emphasizes the inclusion of positive elements of the relationship from the very beginning of counseling. Bringing positive interaction into the marriage from the start and helping each partner to realize the good in the other can have dramatic effects. I also help couples learn how to communicate and problem-solve. But because all people and all marriages are different, my approach to each couple is tailored specifically to them, based on what it is that they are looking for. The technical term for my approach is cognitive behavioral (CBT), and it is heavily influenced by John Gottman and the Gottman Method.
My view of marriage and couples counseling
A marriage is strong when a couple can confidently say that they are friends, partners, and lovers. Each of these is important to different degrees depending on the couple, but when either member of the couple feels as if they are seriously lacking in one of these areas, the marriage can become cold and distant, or could even end up in serious conflict.
- Being friends means that there are at least some activities that both partners enjoy, they have fun together, and they like talking to one another. In other words, they have reasons to look forward to seeing one another.
- Being partners means shared responsibility, mutual trust, both partners looking out for the welfare of the other, and good communication.
- Being lovers is not always about sex, but it is always defined by the couple. Do you spend alone time with each other, without the kids around? Do you hold hands or at least sit close to each other? Sex is one part of being lovers, and if it happens too infrequently or it is not fulfilling for either partner, it can become a problem in the relationship. But many married people do not feel like they can be lovers unless they are also friends and partners. They need to feel accepted and wanted. And they need to feel safe to ask for what they want, and to say no when they really don’t feel like having sex or when there is something sexual (or otherwise) that they don’t want to do.
Couples often come into counseling because of conflicts around money, parenting, difficulties communicating, differences in life goals and values, disagreement about sex and intimacy, and because of unresolved past hurts.
I should also note that I often work with only one member of a couple when their partner is reluctant to attend, which can be quite effective in many instances.