Have breaches of trust eroded your relationship?
Has affection turned into arguing?
Do you feel exhausted, alone, or on edge around your partner?
Are you having a hard time communicating and connecting?
Do you wish enjoyed your relationship more?
Sometimes, couples get stuck in a "problem loop". Understanding how thoughts, feelings and actions interact, you can change negative beliefs that are stressing you out and make lasting changes that improve your life.
The Love trap
According to scientists, when people initially ‘fall in love’ they exhibit the same activity in the brain regions as someone using cocaine, with the main neurotransmitter activated being dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that triggers the brain’s reward system that gives the lover focus, energy, motivation and craving. When dopamine is activated our brains want more and get upset if they don’t get it (eg. triggering anxiety when apart). When things are going badly, they often lose sleep and don’t eat or overeat. The brain craves love like it’s a drug, resulting in distorted reality (eg. ignoring flaws of the other, putting other on a pedestal, ignoring red flags or differences in values and goals). People experience personality changes, do dangerous and sometimes inappropriate things and obsessively think about the object of their love as the centre of their world. This is not love. It is infatuation, attraction, desire, romance. Love is something altogether different. Love is a thoughtful and present experience of choosing to behave your best and meet your partner's needs even when they are faltering to meet your needs and when what you want is as important as what what the relationship needs.
What is couples' therapy?
Most couples come to therapy because they have been unsuccessful at resolving their conflicts, feel disengaged emotionally, or have become overly argumentative or avoidant. Therapy aims to assist in moving the couple from conflict to resolution and from disengagement to connectedness. Couples' therapy accomplishes the following objectives so that the couple can enjoy a collaborative, affectionate, long-lasting and long-loving partnership:
Digging into strengths and solutions that have helped the couple solve problems so far.
Clarifying that each partner's job in therapy is to focus on their own learning and growth, not to try to get the other person to change. Most of us need a little help seeing ourselves and our partners clearly.
Recognizing bad habits and unrealistic expectations that have contributed to current problems.
Validating the couple through a problem-solving process where they both feel good about the outcome. Teaching skills so that the couple learns to talk tactfully, listen responsively, and resolve differences in a way that consistently leads to solutions that please both partners.
Teaching skills for preventing emotional reactivity, keeping the emotional tone between partners happy and loving. Teaching emotional regulation so the partners learn to remove themselves from an intense and potentially damaging conversation and return to the topic with a greater commitment to keep dialogue productive and safe, calm themselves down, and to seek understanding.
Practicing skills so the couple can handle future issues collaboratively without a therapist. Coaching the couple through tough topic discussions in session so that the partners learn to resolve their own problems.
Couples' therapy helps couples repair the inevitable mistakes and work with the small, daily movements and moments that color the larger picture. Commonly, the friendship and love that brought you together is alive, but temporarily hidden from view. Recent research on healthy couples has given us a plethora of skills that struggling couples usually have already and can tap into effectively with the right support. This skill-building focuses on emotional self-regulation, cooperative communication, and conflict resolution training so couples are more effective addressing the challenges of partnership. Many couples hit rough spots in their relationship. Research has established that most of those who succeed in riding through the storm end up with highly satisfying partnerships in the long run.
Is it necessary for the therapist to interact with both partners?
One person going to individual therapy for a relationship problem is risky. It can increase the odds that the relationship will end unless the in-treatment spouse can stay focused on what they can do differently to improve the relationship. Likewise, having one therapist for couple therapy and another for individual therapy with the spouse(es) can be tricky because the individual therapist has only half of the story and may develop individual treatment goals that are at odds with the couples' treatment goals. With that said, I like to meet with each partner separately in the beginning to get a thorough assessment, and I may ask partners to meet with me in breakout sessions during therapy to work on particular objectives that honor the couples' goals.
What are some successful methods for working with couples?
The Sound Relationship House Theory (the foundation of the Gottman Method, which uses a practical approach to help couples break through barriers to achieve greater understanding, connection, and intimacy), Attachment Theory (focused on the bonds between parent/child and romantic partners) and the Relationship Attachment Model have evidence-based methods to improve relationship outcomes. I honor these approaches in my work with couples and have found solution-focused therapy (a form of brief therapy much like cognitive behavioral therapy) an effective and pragmatic approach for many couples with competing demands for time and resources. It is “strength-based” as opposed to “insight-oriented" or "problem-focused".
What are some benefits of choosing a strength-based therapist?
A solution-focused therapist will identify the client’s strengths in order to help the client use these strengths in areas where they are stuck. For example, a couple might come to therapy complaining generally of having “communication issues,” but it might turn out that these issues only arise under certain circumstances or problem areas. When a therapist can coach the client to tap into the right system to solve current problems, the clients' efforts to achieve their goals will be most effective.
Thoughts are our best predictors of happiness. When practiced over time, healthy and productive thoughts produce effective long-term results. Insight-oriented therapy is more interested in one’s past, one’s history of repetitive patterns and relationships, and gives much more weight to subconscious drives, behaviors, and issues. In essence, it can reinforce negative thoughts and a problem focus. Solution-focused therapy focuses on the present and the future. It doesn’t view clients as being deficient and is not concerned with labeling them unless warranted. While both therapies have their places in the world of mental health, strength-based therapy supports clients who want tools and a place to safely practice them, so they can get back to living their best lives.
MOXIE PSYCHOTHERAPY FOR COUPLES
Identify relationship patterns and problems so that we can find solutions
Identify what is working so that we can repeat successes
Define your individual and couple goals
Specify a plan of action so that you know what to do next
Work on positive communication so that you turn conflict constructive
Evaluate your progress so that you can celebrate it together
No Secrets Policy for Couples and Families
When a couple or family enters into counseling, it is considered to be one unit. This means that my allegiance is to the couple or family “unit,” and not to the individuals. I find this is particularly important in creating a space where everyone can feel safe. Therefore, I adhere to a strict “No Secrets” policy. This means that I will not hold secrets for individuals. This policy is intended to allow me to continue to treat the couple or family by preventing, to the extent possible, a conflict of interest to arise where an individual’s interests may not be consistent with the interests of the unit being treated.
On occasion during the counseling process, individuals of the unit may be seen for an individual counseling session. In this case, the individual session is still considered as part of the couple’s or family’s counseling relationship. Information disclosed during individual sessions may be relevant or even essential to the proper treatment of the couple or family. If an individual chooses to share such information with me, I will offer the individual every opportunity to disclose the relevant information and will provide guidance in this process. If the individual refuses to disclose this information within the couple’s or family’s session, I may determine that it is necessary to discontinue the counseling relationship.
If there is information that an individual desires to address within a context of individual confidentiality, I will be happy to provide referrals to therapists who can provide concurrent individual therapy. This policy is intended to maintain the integrity of the couples/family counseling relationship.
CLASSES FOR DATING COUPLES
Lifetime partnership is choosing "your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you'll hear about 18,000 times." (Huffington Post 2014).
This class will teach you how to:
Ask the right questions to inspire meaningful conversation.
Analyze your partner's level of conscientiousness.
Judge character based on compatibility, relationships skills, friends, and patterns from family and previous relationships.
Resolve your own emotional baggage.
Open your eyes to problems in the relationship.
Identify and break destructive dating patterns.
Previously called How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk(ette), this course and its author (Dr. John Van Epp) have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Psychology Today, O Magazine, and Cosmopolitan...just sayin'. But does this program work?
P.I.C.K. a Partner (10 hour commitment): Must be 18 to register. Nonrefundable payment must be made in full at time of registration.
CLASSES FOR COMMITTED AND MARRIED COUPLES
Keeping your love strong requires ongoing communication and thoughtful consideration of your relationship. At the heart of every vibrant relationship is a strong attachment. A couple who still feels “in love” after years together is unsinkable in the waves of life. In the L.I.N.K.S. Program (Lasting Intimacy through Nurturing Knowledge & Skills), you will gain skills for communication, conflict resolution, forgiveness and rebuilding trust, identifying and satisfying personal needs, constructing a marriage story, and growing sexually.
Couple L.I.N.K.S. (10 hour commitment): Couples are highly encouraged to attend this workshop together. Nonrefundable payment must be made in full at time of registration.
WHEN THE DECISION IS MADE TO LEAVE
Unfortunately, some couples will decide to dissolve their partnership for a variety of reasons, and I have included some brief information on this, here.
I have also included information for those experiencing domestic violence and/or harassment, here.