couples / relationship therapy
What to Expect
Couples / relationship therapy can be invaluable in helping to heal wounds, increase functioning, promote intimacy, and increase closeness in our most important relationships. Starting couples / relationship therapy is a unique experience, different from starting individual therapy in several ways. As a therapist providing couples / relationship therapy, my goal in the beginning of the work is to not only get to know and understand each person in the relationship(s) but also to understand the relationship(s) as well.
Before coming to your first couples / relationship session, I will ask each member of the relationship(s) to fill out a series of forms that will help me get to know your individual histories and also your experiences in your current relationship(s). These forms may feel cumbersome at the outset, but will save us valuable time in session.
In my couples / relationship work, I draw from Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) regarding relationships and utilize a model of therapy called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT-C). RCT promotes an examination of the personal identities of all partners (i.e., gender, sexuality, religious background) and how these identities influence patterns of relating to others. Using RCT, I am also often looking for ways in which power is manifested and managed in the relationship(s). EFT-C, as you may understand by its name, places the focus on emotional exchanges and dysfunctional patterns of relating that have developed among partners.
Using EFT-C, I collaborate with members in relationships to begin to understand their dysfunctional relational patterns, to intervene at earlier points in these patterns, and to develop new and more functional ways of interacting. This approach also emphasizes identifying primary emotions, rather than focusing on secondary emotions. For example, one member of a relationship may respond with anger when their partner decides to go out for an evening. Here, anger is the secondary emotion, with the primary emotion potentially being fear (of being apart or being abandoned). Working to identify and target primary emotions often allows members in relationships to be more empathic in their communication and to better connect in times of discord.
You may notice that the title of this page is "couples / relationship therapy." This reflects that I work with couples in dyadic relationships (2 people), but I also work with folks who have other types of relationship configurations (i.e., polyamorous, open relationships). I am a sex-positive and kink-positive therapist, both in my individual work and in my work with couples / relationships.