Couples Therapy

Keys to My Approach

  • All relationships are unique; I will focus on what works for you and your relationship
  • I work with couples of all ages and stages
  • I work with all kinds of relationships
  • I am sex positive and work with sexual issues frequently
  • I work with couples with complex trauma histories
  • I work with couples following infidelities
  • I acknowledge and confront power differentials
  • I work with couples preparing for marriage
  • I work with couples preparing for separation

About Couple's Therapy

Each one of us arrives at adulthood with a set of ideas about how to be close to another person. These relationship “operating instructions” are peculiar blend of what we absorb from our families, in particular, and our culture, in general. Couples therapy is a place to sort through these instructions in order to let go of what is not working and to implement more effective ones in their place.

Although I place a great deal of emphasis on relationship skills, I also recognize that inside each of us are wounded, immature parts that aren't particularly interested in connection. When stuck in these modes, all the skills in the world become useless. To address this, I balance skill work with the trauma work necessary to heal the underlying deficits in our capacity for relationship.

Couples Therapy and Trauma

Trauma has profound effects on the way we develop and function in our relationships. As a result, it is a rich area of exploration in couples therapy.  When two people confront the effects of trauma together, they become more than partners in life, but "partners in health."  I find that when couples do the difficult work of metabolizing trauma together, their wounds become indistinguishable from their bond.

A particular type of trauma, known as "relational trauma," occurs in the context of early attachment and impacts our blueprints for relating with others. Relational traumas affect many aspects of relationships, including how we try to get needs met, how we react to our partners, and even how we choose who we want to be with. Because the trauma itself occurs within a relationship, our adult relationships can be powerful crucibles for growth and healing. My training prepares me to help couples set the stage for healing moments, not just in the therapy room, but in their day-to-day lives.

Other traumas occur "outside" the relationship, but seem to play out in stereo within it. These include accidents, warfare, assaults, break-ins, near-death experiences, illness, and loss. Often, these events are salient in the lives of the couple: "He/she just hasn't been the same since..." It is the nature of trauma to alter our sense of safety and what we can expect from the world, and partners may have difficulty understanding and making sense of what has happened to one another. Even partners who experience the same event, such as loss of a loved one, experience it differently. I am trained in specific approaches to help partners move beyond trauma, re-open lines of connection, and restore their relationship to secure functioning.

Couples and Sex

Sex is not the only aspect of a healthy relationship, but it is easily quantified, and many couples seek help after an unwanted decline in the amount of intercourse they are having. Others come in feeling as though sex has become routine and hope for insights into reclaiming joy and passion. Still others have experienced a life event, such as injury, illness, or increased job/parenting pressure, that negatively impact sexual functioning.

I approach sexual issues sensitively, openly, and non-judgmentally, and view therapy as a unique space for couples to explore sexuality as individuals and partners. I also look at the many ways a couple's sex life impacts their relationship, and vice versa. I have specific tools for helping couples communicate preferences, negotiate differences, and establish a lasting dialog between the domestic and erotic pieces of life together.

Couples and Parenting

The transition into parenthood can be very challenging for couples, particularly if the relationship between partners already merits substantial work. Adjustment to new schedules, shifting of roles, decreased romance, and disagreements over parenting styles are all common reasons to seek professional assistance. But it is not just the stresses of family life that warrant attention. Parenthood also brings with it many positive challenges. Sometimes, individuals who will not change for themselves or for their partners will choose to become healthy for their children. I take great joy in helping couples craft loving relationships to model for their children while empowering them to parent with nurture, guidance, and limits.

Specific Approaches and Influences

Relational Life Therapy

Relational Life Therapy (RLT) , created and developed by Terry Real, rests on the assumption that as humans we are intimate by nature. The RLT therapists works with partners to recover this inherent capacity for intimacy which is lost, to varying degrees, as the result of familial and cultural wounds. In session, you can expect to explore relationship strategies that are moving you away from intimacy and replace them with more productive strategies that help you both get more of what you want. RLT is particularly effective for helping both partners bring their full assertiveness into the relationship.

Psychobiological Approach to Couple's Therapy

Developed by Stan Tatkin, the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy (PACT) is unique in its acknowledgment of the role our bodies play in creating and sustaining connection. The PACT therapist focuses on helping partners to quiet their physiological defenses and engage with one another using the more deliberate, thoughtful, and loving parts of the brain.

Intimacy from the Inside Out

Based on Dick Schwartz's Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, Intimacy from the Inside Out (IFIO) is a systemic approach to psychotherapy the uses the relationship itself as a vehicle for growth and healing of each individual as well as the couple. Partners will learn how to reign in the destructive impulses of their self-protective parts while establishing more authentic and heartfelt communication patterns. 

Spiritual Dimensions

I believe life is a spiritual journey that is given meaning in our relationships, and that time spent honoring them is time spent in service of a greater good. I aim to help couples see beyond their day to day interactions in order to connect on a deeper, soulful level. I have come to view the "technologies of intimacy" I offer as the practical, worldly links to the larger mysteries of the heart, ones that ultimately defy clinical and scientific understanding.

 

"The shift from dreaming our passion to living it requires nothing less of us than restructuring the rules we have always lived by."

-Terry Real

Recommended Resources

"New Rules of Marriage," by Terry Real

"Wired for Love," by Stan Tatkin

"How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It," by Steven Stosny and Patricia Love

"Soul Mates," by Thomas Moore