Couple Therapy And How I Think About Helping Your Relationship

Difficult Decision for Couples!   We are a bit overwhelmed about the decision to go to marriage counseling. The stakes are so high. What do we do to feel sure that we'll find a helpful marriage therapist? Perhaps these articles will give us a few hints to help in this decision.   Fernando Botero. A Couple, 1999
Difficult Decision for Couples!
We are a bit overwhelmed about the decision to go to marriage counseling. The stakes are so high. What do we do to feel sure that we’ll find a helpful therapist? Perhaps these articles will give us a few hints to help in this decision.

Fernando Botero. A Couple, 1999

I Want You To Know How I Think About Helping Your Relationship

It is important to me that I can show you in our first session how I think about helping your relationship in the context of your very specific and personal relationship troubles.  I know from the first moment I meet you that you will have worries about coming to couple therapy.  I know that when you are having trouble you may also be having a hard time finding your feelings of friendship, belonging, and affection.  One definition of relationship trouble is that those feelings become obscured. Part of my role as your couple therapist is to hold a place for your profound importance to, and dependence on, one another. When you first come to couple therapy you may be having a hard time letting yourself and each other feel this.

I will help you talk about how it is hurting between you. I will work to understand the history of your difficulties. I’ll notice your relationship strengths and reflect them to you. I will help you tell the story of how your difficulties happen between you. I’ll learn what is difficult for each of you. I’ll begin to understand the larger picture of your shared life.

I Want You To Know What I Am Like As A Couple Therapist.

Couples usually have a very good feel for what I am like within the first two sessions.  If things are going well between us you will experience me as very actively involved.  You will find that I am energetic in my effort to help. You’ll see that I am very task oriented while at the same time very emotionally attuned to each of you. If you don’t have an experience of me as really caring about each of you and your relationship by the end of the first session, something might be going wrong.  Having a strong and reliable sense of how your marriage therapist will be with you is part of making couple therapy good for your relationship.  (You might like to read my article, “Are We Making Progress”.)

I Will Help You Work Together In Your Relationship When The Patterns Begin

I want us to find our way, as soon as possible, into helping each of you express the hurt and longing that is underneath the repeating patterns in which you are stuck.  I take some time to learn about how your interactions go.  I help you think about the moves you each make that take you further away from each other when you feel hurt.  I help you discover, together, that these patterns of reactivity serve to protect the vulnerable feelings that are difficult to express.

I will help you have confidence that the patterns are the trouble rather than any fault of either of you.  I will help you recognize these patterns when they are happening. Helping your relationship means that it is part of my job to help you notice the deeper feelings that are happening at the same time as the pattern.

You will find that you can work to stay connected rather than flare apart or distance from one another when your difficulties begin.  I will help you learn to work as a team when you feel those patterns starting.  You will find satisfaction, trust and closeness from experiencing your teamwork.  You will be amazed how working together will help you have the courage to change so that you can be close.  Helping you work together against those negative patterns is fundamental relationship help.

I’ll Help More Empathy Develop Between You

I will also be working, increasingly, to help you feel empathy for yourself and for your partner.  I will work to help you feel your care toward the relational difficulties and sensitivities you each have. I will help you trust that you can talk about the hard things and remain connected. I will work hard for this combination of things to come together for your relationship so that:

    • You will feel more warm and friendly toward each other.
    • You will be able to continue to repair past hurts.
    • You will feel an increase in empathy for each of your sensitivities and difficulties.
    • You will have more courage to show your vulnerable feelings to each other.
    • You will develop confidence that you can have deeper engagement and intimacy.

I Will Help You Consolidate Your Relationship’s Growth

Next, I will help you consolidate your gains. This will help set the stage for ending couple therapy.  This last stage of couple therapy will help you mutually protect the deeper engagement and intimacy that you have earned through your shared efforts. This stage helps you remain mutually involved in making sure that you can always make things better when a difficulty occurs. In the end I will wish for you that your relationship (even the troubles in your relationship) will be a deep source of connection. Helping you consolidate your relationship’s growth is a necessary part of helping your relationship.

Call Me For An Appointment So That You Can Learn How I Will Help You

Couple therapy sessions are 75 minutes. Again, in the first session I’ll work to link our aims for your therapy to your very specific relationship difficulties. If this written description of what to expect feels abstract, it won’t feel that way when we meet in person and connect it to each of you and your relationship. I only charge for this first appointment if you return to keep working with me.

I hope my website will help you understand how couple therapy works and how I think about helping your relationship. I hope the website will be helpful to your relationship through watching some of the film clips or reading some of the articles together. I hope that this website will help you find a good couple therapist even if you end up not meeting with me.

Thanks for exploring my couple therapy website,

Robert Ogner, November 11, 2008