Most of my practice is with couples. I help couples address the future of their relationship, reduce hurtful conflict, increase emotional and sexual intimacy, and cope effectively with stress. I also work with couples preparing for marriage, experiencing infidelity, or adjusting to separation and divorce.
I use methods from Integrative Couple Therapy. If you would like more information on this approach you can take a look at http://ibct.psych.ucla.edu/about/ or the book Reconcilable Differences in my Resources section of this site.
This approach has two separate stages. The first stage is a four session assessment and feedback stage. The second is the therapy stage.
assessment and feedback stage
Before the first session, I ask partners to complete questionnaires at home. The questionnaires help partners reflect on their relationship, assess their relationship satisfaction and personal well-being, and clarify what their goals are for couple therapy.
In session one, I meet with the partners together. I try to understand each partner’s background, what each is struggling with, what attracted them to each other, and the history of their relationship. This session gives partners a chance to get know me and decide whether they can connect with me as a therapist. I then give partners an opportunity to discuss whether they want to continue.
If they decide to continue, I then see each partner individually for a session. This is so each can speak freely about their experience of the relationship without worrying about their partner’s reactions. I assess what they really think is dividing them, their troublesome patterns, previous attempted solutions, and what’s important to them as they go through therapy.
I then analyze what I’ve learned from each partner’s completed questionnaires, the first couple session, and the two individual sessions, and identify a recurring pattern or theme that is dividing them.
In the fourth session, I provide the couple with feedback on their strengths and describe the pattern that I think is dividing them. I outline a direction for setting this pattern aside and building a new pattern that can deepen their connection and well-being.
This ends the assessment stage. Partners can now make an informed decision about my approach, what it is like to work with me as their therapist, and the investment it will take to make needed changes. Partners then get to decide whether they want to try to make these changes on their own or have me guide them in the process.
If a couple decides they want my help to make the needed changes, we move on to the therapy stage. Making needed changes in a pattern typically involves another four to eight sessions spaced over several months.
Partners are usually seen together in these sessions. The focus of the sessions is often on recent incidents that reflect the major pattern or theme that has been dividing them. I help partners learn how they get hooked into their negative pattern and help them find ways to exit it early. I help couples learn skills to become more reflective and less reactive and how to communicate more effectively. I guide them in balancing increased acceptance with making needed changes in behavior so they can increase their positive connection and mutual support.
I view a committed romantic relationship like marriage as a people-growing system which over time naturally pressures partners to stand on their own two feet in order to keep love alive. In this process, relationship and sexual problems are normal and to be expected. These problems are signs that the time has come for one or both partners to face their anxiety and risk change in order to experience a deeper connection and intimacy. Couple therapy provides a holding environment to do this work. For more information on this approach please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgAIY0or-hA or the book Intimacy and Desire in my Resources section on this site.