My goal during a couples retreat is to give 100% of my focus and energy to the couple I am working with, so each couple leaves my retreat on a more positive relationship trajectory than when they arrived. In my relationship with clients, I place the highest priority on in-session emotional safety by creating a safe space for clients to be seen, heard, and take emotional risks.
I seek to fully understand each partner’s experience in the relationship and support both partners’ needs and longings. I don’t take a moralistic stance with couples (right and wrong, good and bad). Instead, I ask couples to be honest about their behaviors, struggles, emotions, and perceptions in order to foster awareness and accountability for their impact on each other and the relationship. I will guide you in exploring how you may want to grow and change to improve your relationship and feel better about yourselves.
How I Work with Clients
I use a collaborative approach to therapy. Couples are encouraged to set goals or intentions for the retreat, and those goals may be different for each partner. At the beginning of our time together, I will explore your goals with you, and we will come to an understanding of what we will focus on for the remainder of the retreat.
I view couple distress through the lens of Attachment Theory. Humans evolved to bond with a few key others for survival, and our bond with our partner is one of the most important attachment relationships we have. We feel the best in our partnership when we feel safe and secure, confident that our partner has our back: if we are ever in a time of emotional or physical need, we have our person to turn to for love and support.
When we perceive that our partner is emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, disapproving, or disengaged with us, our brains are wired to become distressed, and predictable behaviors occur: angry, sometimes critical protest (called the anxious or pursuing style), or defensive shutting down (called the avoidant or withdrawing style). Many times, a marriage is made up of two people with opposite styles.
Both the pursuing and withdrawing styles are a response to the threat of losing connection to your most important person, and they often make matters worse. Instead of communicating, “I’d like to connect with you and you’re not available,” these reactions often come across as, “Why are you always on your phone?” or getting quiet (internally frustrated) and leaving to go to the store. These reactions create a negative, cyclical pattern: the more that one person pursues, the more the other withdraws, and visa-versa. This negative cycle blocks both people from having the kind of easy and fulfilling connection that they long for.
The ability to stay connected and find balance when feeling hurt or threatened is not something that most of us learn in school, and often requires help from an outside person. During my couples retreats, I help couples learn and implement new practices for creating emotional safety and connection with each other in these key emotional moments. By helping couples stay emotionally balanced and united (instead of going into their negative cycles), it is much easier to utilize positive communication skills and solve problems in a practical way.
To do this, I use mindfulness-based interventions to help couples slow down and become aware of their feelings, perceptions, and body sensations in these key moments of reactivity. Instead of engaging in the instant, knee-jerk reactions that typically happen at home, I help each person become more present and express themselves in more coherent and constructive ways. I also help each partner be able to listen to the other person’s experience, and help them respond to each other with greater openness and care.
These conversations can result in increased happiness, a stronger sense of partnership, and greater mutual support. They can also play a key role in improving a couple’s sexual relationship.
What happens when we meet with you?
First, we explore whether a couples retreat is right for your relationship by scheduling a free phone consultation. I’ll speak with both members of the couple to make sure that our goals are compatible and that working together is a good fit.
In the beginning of therapy, I spend time gathering information to help me understand each of your realities, perspectives, and unmet needs in the relationship. I’ll ask you about the history of your relationship and any experiences that significantly impacted you. We’ll decide on goals for our time together, and I will use these goals as guideposts for the remainder of the session.
I will also have an individual session with each of you to clarify your experiences, and how you most need my support during our session. I’ll ask you about your personal background and the significant relationships in your life before your current marriage or partner.
On the second day, we will get to work dismantling the issue(s) standing in the way of having the safety and connection that you want. I will help you create or rebuild the safety that has been missing. This sets the stage for new, positive interactions, and having meaningful conversations and connections with each other. I’ll guide you toward your goals and help you engage with important issues and come to new understanding.
On the third day, we will consolidate the experiences that you had during the first two days. We will switch gears toward going home and talk about how to apply what you learned in your life together. I will give you practical tools to use at home to keep your relationship on a positive track. We will also decide on a plan for maintaining the progress that is made with follow-up sessions.
After the retreat is complete, I will give you a detailed summary of our time together to help you stay focused at home.
We’ve had a bad experience with therapy in the past. How will this be different?
Almost everyone feels nervous about beginning couples therapy. It can be hard to try again and risk putting faith in a new therapist when you’ve had a previous negative experience in individual or couples therapy. I take great care to create a therapeutic environment where all three of us are respected and understood. I believe that awareness, healing, and connection happen when you feel safe to explore and communicate your genuine experiences.
I also take my work as a couples therapist very seriously. I see my practice as a specialized form of therapy that requires a high level of skill and training. Sometimes, partners who have had a negative experience in couples therapy either didn’t have the right fit with their previous therapist, or the therapist had an individual approach without specialized, scientifically-based training specifically in couples therapy.
What kind of marriage counseling do you practice?
EFT is a short-term structured approach to couples therapy formulated by Dr. Sue Johnson. EFT has been validated by 20 years of empirical research and is approved by the American Psychological Association as an evidence-based therapy. Several meta-analyses have shown that EFT is the most successful approach to couples therapy. These research studies find that 75% of couples move from distress to secure emotional connection, and approximately 90% show significant improvement by the end of treatment. The results are stable two years later. These are excellent statistics!
Combining the knowledge and wisdom of nearly 40 years of studies and clinical practice, Gottman Method Couples Therapy helps couples break through barriers to achieve greater understanding, connection, and intimacy in their relationships through research-based interventions and exercises. It is a structured, goal-oriented, scientifically based therapy. Intervention strategies are based upon empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s study of more than 3,000 couples. This research shows what actually works to help couples achieve a long-term healthy relationship.
If you think that working together may be right for you or your relationship, contact us and we will respond by email within 24 hours. Or, you may view my online calendar and request a session.