I find couples counseling to be particularly satisfying as I find relationships to be important to wellbeing. Watching couples heal and grow together has been one of the most valuable intrinsic benefits of being a relational therapist. The following are some of the areas where couples counseling can be very helpful:
- Pre-marital Counseling: Premarital counseling is a pre-set curriculum I have designed to help engaged couples discuss critical and difficult topics which come up as problems in long term marriages. After the first session and questionnaire, we build a list of topics which both members of the couple feel is important. Usually, the couple has some idea of what they will want to address, but many times they realize the need to discuss various topics after premarital counseling has begun. Premarital counseling takes about 6 months. I usually recommend scheduling the about 7 – 8 months before the wedding.
- Discernment Counseling: Sometimes one or both partners in a couple are not ready to commit to repair the relationship through couples’ therapy. Research has found that couples starting counseling when they are not ready or committed will yield non effective therapy. For that reason, I offer discernment counseling, a short-term option, which will yield more effective couples therapy if the partners decide to move forward to commit to couples counseling for six months. Depending on the outcome, couples can move on to traditional couples counseling knowing that they will commit to the process of repairing their marriage.
- Communication and Conflict: Communication happens in many negative and nonverbal ways. The most effective form of communication is assertive communication which is the ability to express positive and negative thoughts and feelings in an open, honest and direct way. Many couples are not aware of their negative communication patterns and the way their communication impacts their partner. With therapy, couples become able to identify their negative communication patterns and learn the tools to steer their communication toward assertive communication. This helps in all communication ranging from mild disagreements to negotiating difficult conversations.
- Life Adjustments/COVID: The pandemic has made some relationships better while leaving others in shambles. Unknown schedules, uncertainty regarding the economy, inability to do former distractions, being stuck at home, and issues/homeschooling young children have combined to make many relationships combust under the pressure.
- Transitions in the Family Life Cycle: Couples can experience conflict as they navigate the stress of changes which come with transition in the family life cycle. Starting a family, moving, having special needs child(ren), launching kids to college are just a few examples of the stressors couples face which can serve to undermine marital satisfaction. I work with these couples to normalize, offer psychoeducation, and teach coping strategies which will help de-escalate conflicts and restore marital satisfaction.
- Post-Divorce Transition and Parenting: After the trauma, turmoil, and aftermath of divorce, life goes on. And if there are children, that means ex partners never really leave each other’s lives. Children can be very resilient post-divorce provided the parents are able to give each other mutual respect and support. In post-divorce counseling, ex partners learn how to create mutual respect and communicate without conflict to prioritize the needs of the children as a team. This results in a non-combative, emotionally healthy environment for children to thrive post-divorce.