Couples Therapy

Probably the greatest frustrations in life are the ones we find in dealing with the most important people in our life. Our mates. But the basic principle of coping with frustration still applies (See youtube clip on main page!). Sorting out what we do control from what we do not, accepting what we must while changing what we can. How does this play out in couples therapy?

I like to combine two approaches which exploit the same underlying principle. You do not control your mate, how they think, what they want or how they feel. And your mate does not control you! What each of you does control is your own ears and your own voicebox. What this really means, of course, is that you control whether and how you listen, whether and how you speak. Starting from a place of ownership (see the attached clip on “communication trap #1), we use a structured dialog, adapted from Harville Hendrix, to help you talk constructively to each other about the things that bother you. If both of you make use of what you do control in this way, you will soon see how the two of you working together can cope with what you do not control. And both of you get a lot more of what you want!

What is the “fllip side” of this “problem-focused” approach. It is called “solution-focused therapy.” Instead of looking at what bothers you and sorting out what you do not control and must accept, we look at what pleases and/or satisfies you as a couple, sorting out what you control that brought that about. The more clearly you see what you did that worked, the more you can choose to change things in that way. I call it “working the Serenity Prayer in reverse.”

My role is somewhere between a coach, helping you to build communication skill and muscle, and a referee, trying to maintain a level playing field. I also function as a mirror, reflecting back what I see of the relationship.

What you present as a couple determines which approach we are using at any given moment. Both approaches, dialog and solution-focused, depend on appreciation of the same underlying principle for coping with frustration. And both work, if you work them.