Couples

I use the Gottman method of counseling. John Gottman is a researcher from Seattle, Washington who has studied couples in his “love lab” for more than forty years.  I appreciate the systematic way he and his wife, therapist, Julie Gottman, have been able to take research and translate it into useful information and interventions for both couples and therapists.

Gottmans’ method uses the Sound Relationship House to demonstrate the components of a sound or solid relationship. The basis of the house is friendship and moves through managing conflict and ends with the higher level of shared meaning. The supporting pillars are trust and committment. 

If you are interesting in coming for couple’s counseling at Point on the Path, the first three sessions (1.5 hours each) involve completing the Gottman method of relationship assessment. 

A typical first session will involve history taking, discussion about the current stressors in the relationship and an opportunity for you to engage in an observed conversation in an area of disagreement.  If we are going to continue beyond the first session, I will suggest that you leave with a packet of assessments, created by the Gottmans to provide a detailed understanding of the strengths and fractures in the relationship. The assessments take 1-2 hours for you to complete on your own, but they save therapy time. The assessments allow for a fairly thorough understanding from the beginning.

The second session consists of each person coming for 45 minutes individually. The session is split to get a more comprehensive understanding from each person. The packet of assessments are returned at the second session.

The third session we all meet together and review the results of the assessment in terms of the Sound House relationship model, and talk about an intervention plan that is specific to your unique relationship issues. It feels like a lot of work ‘up-front’, but it’s important for providing effective interventions. Compare it to a medical issue- you wouldn’t want a doctor to assume a diagnosis on observation alone, you would expect there to be tests and a proper diagnosis before a treatment is offered. That’s the way to think of this method of couple’s counseling.

As we move into intervention and support for the relationship, the counseling becomes dyadic. That means the couple talks to each other and not to me directly. There are pre-agreed terms of communication that are specific and often feel a little foreign at first. I become the 'referree' and help teach the couple how to talk to each other through the hard, emotional issues. Often it's a process of slowing down and learning how to manage intense emotions while working through the hard issues. 

So, that’s the science and rationale of my work. Let me add what’s in for me personally. I truly enjoy working with couples. I know the depth of attachment at the beginning of a relationship is apt to wane as years pass and life events and stressors affect us. I have lived as a child of divorced parents, in a blended family and married as a second wife to a partner with a child. I know the reality of families and blended families well. I have done my own work as a daughter, step-daughter, wife, step-mother and mother and continue to grow and love in all these complex family relationships. I believe that once couples find their commitment back to the relationship and re-connect with the attachment, there is much hope for sifting through the presenting issues (no matter how long they have been issues!) and learn ways to find an empathetic and loving connection.

That said, I also think there are times when divorce makes sense because continuing in a devastating and destructive relationship is bad for all involved. I appreciate John and Julie Gottman’s work because they take the mystery out of the whole thing. They offer a solid way to understand the couple relationship and offer interventions to revive it for those adults who are committed to doing so.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to email or call with any questions or concerns.

Warmly,

Heather.