Relationships Can Bring so Much Joy. They Can Also Trigger Intense Pain.
Are you suffering in your relationship? Or has the connection faded? Maybe one of you feels betrayed by the other and trust needs to be rebuilt? Or maybe you or your partner just got bored or disappointed over time and want more out of your relationship. As a couple evolves, differences or lack of effective connection and communication can lead to building resentment, fighting, and hostility. Perhaps your relationship is going great but you want to utilize the latest understandings of how to make it even better. Whatever your situation, I can help.
Healthy relationships lay the foundation for a happy, meaningful life. Sense of belonging through relationships and search for community or family are incredibly powerful driving forces. Let us build your confidence in navigating relationships, from communication and emotional skills to complex dynamics affecting how you are seen by your partner and how you understand him or her in return. So many of us have some type of struggle in relationships–from choosing the wrong person to date, to putting our own needs last, to having trouble accurately reading our partner. Relationships are complex and exciting. Whether you want to explore and deepen your tolerance for intimacy and emotional availability, or learn how to handle a specific recurring dynamic, we love working on your skill and ease in relationships.
I believe being a couples therapist involves specialized training. I have advanced specialty in couples therapy and have studied with national leaders in the latest, most-effective approaches. As a whole, my couples counseling tends to be very experiential, attachment-oriented, and rooted in an understanding of the brain and arousal states (such as trauma and nervous system regulation). The field of couples therapy has experienced a huge evolution. Some of the old-school approaches, such as communication training, are less effective because they focus on the more verbal, rational parts of the brain. These parts of the brain, and all the skills we learn when we are calm and collected, go offline when we are very emotional or upset—in moments where we are either too aroused (highly emotional) or not aroused enough (emotionally frozen or shut-down).
Couples therapists have recently expanded their tool-belt, discovering ways to facilitate faster, more powerful change. I have brought these new tools into my practice through advanced training in the most cutting-edge approaches to couples therapy. These new couples counseling approaches draw on a greater understanding of how the brain works, how arousal and threat-responses lead to triggering behavior, and how secure attachment can be facilitated. This type of couples work therefore helps people to understand how their partner’s brain works and what they can do to shift both people’s brain states from fight or flight toward safety and connection.
This shift is so important! When we do not feel safe, our minds are primed to either attack or shut-down. In these difficult moments, rational or verbal solutions simply do not work. When the neocortex (the most advanced part of our brain) goes offline because of being emotionally triggered, couples must learn to focus on communicating to subcortical parts of their partner’s brain. Through touch, tone of voice, proximity, etc., couples can practice working together to shift each other’s internal system away from defense, attack, or freeze toward collaboration, support, and mutual care.
Couples Therapy Approach
Because couple issues can be complex, they demand evidence-based practices.
The approach I use with couples is Emotionally Focused Therapy.
Strengths of Emotionally Focused Therapy
- EFT is based on clear, explicit conceptualizations of marital distress and adult love. These conceptualizations are supported by empirical research on the nature of marital distress and adult attachment.
- EFT is collaborative and respectful of clients combining experiential Rogerian techniques with structural systemic interventions.
- Change strategies and interventions are specified.
- Key moves and moments in the change process have been mapped into nine steps and three change events.
- EFT has been validated by over 20 years of empirical research. There is also research on the change processes and predictors of success.
- EFT has been applied to many different kinds of problems and populations.
Goals of Emotionally Focused Therapy
- To expand and re-organize key emotional responses – the music of the attachment dance.
- To create a shift in partners’ interactional positions and initiate new cycles of interaction.
- To foster the creation of a secure bond between partners.
Whether your relationship is in crisis or you just have some things to work through that could be easier between you, we are here. Couples counseling is the strength of our practice. If you would like support, please reach out!
If you’re ready to get help with your relationship, fill out the contact form below!
An Example of the Change Process
In their eighth session, a husband’s numb withdrawal expands into profound vulnerability. He is able to share his feeling of not being able to get it right with the woman he loves. He begins to assert his desire to be seen as capable and becomes more accessible to his wife. He moves from “There is no point in talking to you. I don’t want to fight.” to “I do want to be close. I want you to give me a chance. Stop poking me and let me learn to be there for you.” His wife’s critical anger then expands into fear and sadness. She just wants to feel loved and more connected. She is afraid of losing the connection with the man she loves. She can now ask for and elicit comfort. She moves from “You just don’t care. You don’t get it.” to “It is so difficult to say – but I need you to hold me – reassure me – can you?”
New cycles of bonding interactions occur and replace negative cycles such as pursue-withdraw or criticize-defend. These positive cycles then become self-reinforcing and create permanent change. The relationship becomes a safe haven and a healing environment for both partners.”
There is wonderful research that a healthy couples bond can serve as a profound source of healing and growth. The longest longitudinal study on humans (which tracks participants for 75 years), clearly showed that relationship is the most powerful predictor of one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. On the flip side, couples can do damage to each other when they are not in a good place. It is important to be proactive when it comes to one’s partnership. Couples therapy does not need to be a last-ditch effort. It can be a space of exploration, a time to get to know your partner more deeply, share a bonding experience, and develop a mutual vision of your life together.
Whether your relationship is in crisis or you just have some things to work through that could be easier between you, I am here to help. Couples counseling is a strength of my practice. If you would like support, please reach out!
Here is a video that I created that explores a few principles from Emotionally Focused Therapy and the field of neuroscience that can help couples feel more secure, connected, and happier in their relationships.