Psychotherapy for Couples
What kind of problems do couples deal with in therapy?
This can take the form of too much hostility, anger, and conflict, or conversely, it can take the form of silence, depressive feelings, withdrawal, hopelessness, or deadness in the relationship. Problems in communication frequently are connected to sexual difficulties as well.
Reenacting Old Patterns
Perhaps you find that you are behaving toward each other in the same way that you reacted to your parents during childhood. Conversely, you may find yourself replicating dysfunctional aspects of your parent’s relationship with each other. This includes difficulties that survivors of child abuse and neglect, as well as adult children of substance abusers, bring to relationships.
Many types of trauma—assault, rape, death, accidents, robbery, suicide (or attempted suicide), illness, disability, affairs, and other types of betrayal—can affect couples. You may need assistance dealing with a current trauma, or with a trauma that occurred in the past.
Couples go through predictable developmental stages, each stage containing tasks that need to be completed successfully. There are also transitions—such as career change and relocation, including immigration—that are not predictable. You may need assistance with a present transition, or with the results of past transitions.
Taking the next step, whether it is monogamy, cohabitation, marriage, or starting a family can bring up new concerns and issues. The two of you might need to explore unconscious expectations and fears, values, lifestyle differences, money management, extended family involvement, etc. Conversely, if you are choosing to break your commitment by separation or divorce, you may need assistance as well.
In mixed marriages, ethnic, cultural, and religious differences may lead to misunderstandings and conflict. If you are in a gay, lesbian, inter-faith, interracial, or interethnic relationship you may need assistance with the ‘isms’ from family, friends, or other sources.
How does couples therapy compare to individual therapy?
Many couples never come to therapy because they fear that talking about their issues would worsen the situation or even destroy the relationship. They realize that they may want to say things to each other that they have been afraid to say for years, or one or both may fear that they will be ganged up on and blamed for everything. I am aware of the anxieties created by seeking help and therefore encourage a slow pace that honors the delicacy of the situation. As we move forward in understanding the dynamics between you, it becomes apparent that no one person is to blame. It is also apparent that blaming does not help resolve issues between you.
While each of you, particularly at the beginning of therapy, will spend time speaking directly with me, increasingly the time will be spent with the two of you talking to each other. During this time I will assist and support you with suggestions and observations. The three of us will collaborate in generating new understanding and behavior.
What are the goals of couple therapy?
It is difficult to generalize since couples come in for so many different reasons. However, I strive to help you bring back the connectedness, loving-kindness, and passion that you once had, and to build and strengthen a sense of teamwork on which the both of you can rely to meet life’s challenges together.
How would we get started?
At the initial meeting, I will go over the basics of the therapeutic process and answer any questions that you may have about it. Assuming that you both wish to proceed, each partner will complete a questionnaire (see previous page “Premarital/Marital Couples”). I will meet with each of you individually at another session to complete a history which will, in a relatively quick way, enable me to begin to understand your life experiences as individuals.
What would be the commitment?
Your commitment would be to come to a session once per week. In rare instances, such as a crisis, we may need to meet more frequently. Financially, the commitment is similar to making a large purchase over time. There is no particular length of time that you must commit to.