• Couples/Marriage Therapy

  • With approximately half of marriages ending in divorce, and perhaps as many as half of those who staying together being less than fully satisfied, one could easily say that it is completely normal for marriages to need some professional help from time to time.  Unfortunately, most couples who need help delay getting help for five to ten years. One of the ways I like to picture a marriage is like a shirt that you wear, but that your partner wears too. Sharing a shirt is tricky, just like sharing a life. It requires a lot of good communication, coordination, and conflict resolution.  Ideally, a marriage should be comfortable for both people, and should be flexible enough to remain that way for a lifetime. As such, it’s as great a challenge as it is an opportunity.  

    There are two main approaches to marital therapy:  (1) communication and skills oriented approaches (the most popular currently is the Gottman approach); and (2) emotion and relational approaches (the most popular today is Sue Johnson’s approach).  Thirty years ago these two approaches were much more distinctive, while today they share a lot of overlap. I don’t really view them as distinct. The ultimate goal is the same: improve a couple’s capacity for intimacy and for conflict resolution.  Both of these goals are met through a combination of helping couples communicate more effectively (approach 1) and simultaneously helping couples to open up to one another and feel safe enough to share their more vulnerable feelings, such as fear, and needs, such as understanding.  

    I try to make the work of couple’s therapy as enjoyable and positive as it is meaningful, because it is always involves significant amounts of personal challenge and stress.  It’s as difficult as it is rewarding. The logistics of getting two people to adjust their schedules to come in can be challenging too. For these reasons, I always do longer sessions with couples (75 minutes instead of 45), but less frequently (every other week instead of weekly).  Once we know what we are working on, most of the couples I see are able to carry out most of the work on their own, between sessions. This allows couple’s work to be brief (8 to 12 sessions usually), and for the adjustments the couple makes to be long-lasting.