Psychotherapy for Couples

Few struggles are more painful than distress in a committed relationship.  The hopeful news is that when both partners are at least somewhat willing to work together, the relationship can most often not only be saved, but deepened.  At times, however, one partner determines that he or she is no longer interested in saving the relationship.  The grief at such times can be overwhelming -- for both partners.  Couples treatment in such cases may include times of mourning, of finding meaning in both the relationship and its ending, and of discovering ways of moving forward toward a more hopeful future.

Couples therapy includes all of the elements above, but adds a few other dimensions:
  • The unique struggles and strategies for self-protection used by one partner
  • The unique struggles and strategies for self-protection used by the other partner
  • The dance between them: how each partner experiences the other's struggles and attempts to ward off pain in the relationship

Photo of tree with leaves turning color along a mountain pathAs a result of the complexity of each couple's dynamics, each of these elements is vital to explore.  For example, to work on your marriage requires not only that you and your spouse understand and empathize with your unique life struggles and how you respond, but your partner and you must likewise understand and empathize with his or her unique life challenges and responses to pain.  Often, one partner will unintentionally activate some very painful issue for the other.  The wounded partner frequently responds in such a way that often activates a very painful issue for the unintentionally wounding spouse.  Both are now hurting, escalation continues, and a wall between the two is erected.  This dynamic of being wounded and wounding in response, intentionally or not, is the "dance" of the couple.  It is essential that this dance is uncovered and interrupted.

Often, to assist with the treatment, psychological testing is quite helpful in giving each partner something solid about himself/herself to hold onto and work toward while in the throes of couples therapy. It is also helpful to see the couple together and each partner individually as needed in order to accomplish the goals of enhancing understanding and empathy of self and other, and the "dance."