Both Couples’ Therapy and Couples’ Coaching can be tremendously beneficial to partners who want to improve their relational skills, or adjust to change, (such as becoming new parents, having the last child leave home, retiring, etc.). Therapy can be critically important for couples who have become stuck in unhealthy or “empty” relational patterns, or have suffered trauma (such as affairs, illness, death of loved ones, etc.).
Benefits of couples’ therapy or coaching may include:
- Having learned more effective communication techniques
- A sense of balance regarding each’s needs being equally important and addressed
- A greater sense of understanding and being understood by the partner
- Trusting that most conflicts can be worked through without deep hurt or drama
- Enhanced emotional and/or physical intimacy
- Restoration of trust
- Experiencing more fun and joy!
Couples’ Therapy or Couples’ Coaching? While both may be done in person, via phone or video, Couples’ Therapy may only be done (even by phone or video) in the therapist’s state of licensure. Couples Coaching my be done with therapist and clients in different states. Both modalities involve the clients choosing areas of focus and may incorporate things such as communication/conflict-management; “division of labor”; emotional safety; physical affection; finances, etc.
Couples’ Coaching involves, after mutual assessment by partners and the coach, determining specific long -term and short-term goals. Usually, the couple have assignments to complete or practice between coaching sessions. Most sessions begin by checking-in to see how the previous week’s assignments or goals have gone. The coach is there to provide suggested assignments, compassionate guidance and accountability. Couples’ Coaching is usually done twice a month with access to the coach between sessions to answer questions or provide support. It is a great modality for couples who would like to add to their skill sets, enhance cooperation in areas of differences, or feel closer.
While both coaching and therapy can include some reflection on the ways the partners’ histories may influence current challenges, Couples’ Therapy allows for more time to explore individual histories, access mutual vulnerability in session, etc. While there are optional assignments and materials available for use in Couples’ Therapy, it is less time structured than Coaching. Therapy is often the best choice for couples who have grown apart, who have been arguing a great deal, or are having difficulty recovering from an affair or some other trauma. Couples’ Therapy usually begins with weekly sessions if possible, and clients may taper off as needed.
If you are unsure which modality to choose, we can speak further about that to help you decide what would best fit your needs. (Please see also the tab for “Rates and Insurance”.)
One of my pet peeves is couples’ work being done from only one theoretical framework, and/or where the same series of exercises is prescribed in the same order for all couples. Such approaches do not, in my opinion, give enough importance to the uniqueness of each coupleship. Instead, I see effective couples’ work starting with a full assessment of strengths and challenges. Excellent couples’ work, I believe, should be an integration of a number of theories and approaches, which may include:
- Individual Personality Styles
- Individual Histories
- Individual Attachment Styles
- The Relationship’s History
- Communication Skills
- External Stressors (Finances, Relations, Cultural Biases, etc.)
- Internal Stressors (Addictions, Mood disorders, Health Issues, etc.)
- Significant Events (Losses, Changes, Trauma)
Some couples, such as biracial couples, blended-family couples, infertile couples, same sex couples, couples where one or both are transgendered, couples where there is a significant age difference, and couples who have decided to separate, etc. may have some very special circumstances to explore and process. These concerns, as all other couple concerns, are handled with the utmost compassion and respect.
I continue to strive to add to my knowledge base. I have studied with many of the most renowned and published couples’ therapists. I have attended workshops (but am not certified by): Harville Hendrix (“Imago” Therapy); John Gottman (“Gottman Method”); Susan Johnson (“Emotionally-Focused Therapy”); Ellen Bader and Pete Pearson (developmental-skills focus); David Schnarch (differentiation focus); Michelle Weiner Davis (“Divorce Busting”); Vann Joines (“Personality Adaptations” and “T.A. Today”); Barry McCarthy (sexual enrichment); Janis Abrahms- Spring (affairs); Sharon Wegscheider Cruse (relational alcohol and drug issues); Stan Tatkin (Psychobiological Approach to Couples’ Therapy) and many others.