Frequently Asked Questions

Is couples counseling right for us?

From a Gottman perspective, counseling can be a beneficial avenue for many couples. The Gottman Method is grounded in decades of research on thousands of couples and provides tools and strategies specifically designed to enhance relationship satisfaction, manage conflicts, and strengthen bonds. If you’re experiencing communication breakdowns, feelings of disconnect, or just want to further fortify your relationship, counseling offers a structured environment to address these concerns. Ultimately, the choice to seek counseling depends on your individual and shared goals, but know that many couples have found greater understanding and connection through the Gottman approach.

    Who is couples counseling not right for?

    From the Gottman perspective, while couples counseling can be beneficial for many, there are specific situations where it may not be the most appropriate or effective intervention. Couples counseling may not be suitable for:

    1. Active Addictions: If one or both partners are struggling with active substance abuse or addiction, individual treatment or detox may be a priority before couples work can commence.
    2. Domestic Violence: In cases of ongoing physical abuse or severe emotional abuse, safety becomes the primary concern. Individual counseling or other interventions might be more appropriate.
    3. Active Affairs: If a partner is currently engaged in an affair and is not willing to end it, couples therapy may not be effective. The commitment to working on the relationship is paramount.
    4. Severe Mental Health Issues: If one partner is experiencing acute mental health crises, such as suicidal ideation or severe depression, individual treatment focusing on stabilization is crucial before engaging in couples work.

    It’s essential to note that while couples counseling may not be the right fit for these specific scenarios, other forms of therapeutic intervention or support might be appropriate and beneficial.

    Does couples counseling make things worse?

    I understand the apprehension. Often, when couples begin counseling, they unearth issues that might initially make things feel more challenging. This phenomenon is what’s commonly called the “Feel Better/Get Better Trap.”

    When we address relationship issues, it might not immediately feel good. Confronting problems head-on can be uncomfortable. But that discomfort is often a sign of growth and progress. While it’s tempting to maintain the status quo (which can feel better in the short run), it doesn’t allow for true resolution or deeper connection.

    Couples counseling aims to move beyond just feeling better temporarily. It’s about genuinely getting better, understanding each other, and building a stronger relationship foundation. So, while there might be bumps along the way, the end goal is a more resilient, understanding, and connected partnership.

    How long does it take?

    From a Gottman lens, the length of counseling is as unique as each couple, but momentum is key. With online access to the Gottman Relationship Builder Modules, your engagement in between sessions can amplify progress and potentially shorten therapy duration. Most couples, with consistent involvement and the discernment perspective in mind, see transformative shifts within six months. The ultimate goal? Equip you with tools so you can independently nurture your bond, making my role obsolete as soon as possible.

    What if decide to separate during therapy?

    Even if you decide to separate during the course of therapy, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of our work together. Some couples find that taking a structured break, or implementing a “structured separation agreement”, can provide the clarity and space needed to evaluate their relationship’s dynamics. This controlled environment often supports ongoing counseling, allowing partners to make informed decisions about the future. The separation can be an opportunity to determine if restructuring the relationship or deciding to stay together is the best course of action. Therapy can then provide tools and guidance on how to navigate either choice in the most healthy and constructive manner. Whether the outcome is reconciliation or parting ways, the ultimate goal is achieving clarity, understanding, and well-being for both partners.

    What approach do you use in therapy?

    The Gottman Method is like a Swiss Army knife for couples therapy! It combines the best aspects of different therapeutic approaches. At its core, it helps us understand the deeper emotional and personal histories that each partner brings into the relationship (that’s the psychodynamic part). It also focuses on the emotions you both are experiencing right now in your relationship, and how to manage and express those feelings in a supportive way (that’s the emotion-focused bit). Lastly, it gives you practical tools and techniques to improve how you communicate and solve problems together (that’s the skill-based communication strategies). By blending all these elements, the Gottman Method offers a comprehensive way to strengthen and repair relationships. And don’t worry; while it might sound a bit technical, my goal is to make it all feel natural and relatable for both of you.

    Can we do this online via telehealth?

    Both in-person and telehealth counseling can be effective, but there are some differences to consider. In-person sessions are always preferred because there’s a certain connection and energy that comes from being in the same room. It can be easier to pick up on non-verbal cues and the overall atmosphere can enhance the therapeutic experience.

    That said, telehealth can also be very effective, especially if logistical challenges or other factors make in-person sessions difficult. Technology allows us to connect and communicate in meaningful ways even if we’re miles apart. However, it’s essential to understand that some insurance companies might not cover telehealth services. Always check with your provider to understand your coverage. Regardless of the format, the key is your commitment to the process and the quality of the therapeutic relationship we build together.

    What is a Limited Secrets Policy?

    In couples counseling, a limited secrets policy means that what one partner shares with the therapist in a private session is not kept secret from the other partner. This ensures that therapy remains a transparent and joint effort, where both partners are on the same page. However, the therapist uses discretion and collaboratively decides with the disclosing partner about how and when to introduce the information into the couples’ sessions.

    It’s important to differentiate this from confidentiality. Confidentiality refers to the protection of your personal information and everything discussed in therapy from being disclosed to any outside parties, unless there’s a risk of harm or other specific legal exceptions. The limited secrets policy, on the other hand, relates specifically to what is shared within the therapeutic context between partners.

    In essence, while confidentiality ensures your privacy from the external world, the limited secrets policy ensures transparency and mutual trust within the therapeutic relationship among partners.

    What does the work look like?

    From a Gottman Method perspective, couples therapy is a unique blend of gaining deep insights into your relationship dynamics and actively practicing skills to enhance your connection. Let’s break this down:

    1. Insight Building: The beginning phase often involves understanding your relationship’s strengths and areas for growth. Using Dr. John Gottman’s research, we’ll delve deep into understanding the patterns, behaviors, and intricacies of your relationship.
    2. Guided Skills Practice in Sessions: Think of our sessions as a safe space to practice essential skills. We focus on enhancing your communication, conflict resolution, and connection. Here, you get real-time feedback, and we can address challenges as they arise.
    3. Using the Relationship Builder Modules: These online modules, available to you, provide an added layer of support. They offer a range of exercises and videos grounded in research. They not only reinforce what we discuss in sessions but also give you tools to continue the work outside of our meetings. The beauty of these modules is that they allow for flexibility — you can work on them at your own pace and convenience.
    4. Integration of Various Approaches: While the foundation is the Gottman Method, which itself integrates psychodynamic and emotion-focused work, the therapy is also enriched with skill-based communication strategies. This ensures a holistic approach catering to both the emotional and practical aspects of your relationship.

    Remember, the goal of this therapeutic journey is to give you the tools, understanding, and skills to navigate your relationship’s complexities, ensuring it remains resilient, fulfilling, and strong.