Couples Therapy | LGBT Couples Therapy
Oakland | Berkeley | Alameda
San Francisco Bay Area | CA
Weekly Counseling | Extended Sessions | House Calls
Private Couples Therapy Weekend Retreats
The answer is yes but....
In order to improve or save your relationship or marriage you absolutely must be willing to change the negative unhelpful narrative or story that you tell yourself about your spouse/partner.
Many couples show up to couples counseling with the following idea more or less - "I am fine. Please fix my partner or spouse as they are the problem and then all will be well. Also please do this in the least amount of time and as cheaply as possible.
Couples therapy can help if you are experiencing any of the following in your relationship:
Difficulty solving problems
Lack of intimacy and romance
If yes, are you willing to work as if you’re training for a marathon to make changes in your relationship?
This means a true commitment to yourself and your partner to transform the dynamics and patterns in your relationship.
Does couples therapy work?
Couples Therapy for Communication Problems
Communication is the number one reason couples request relationship counseling. But what exactly is communication?
How come so many couples struggle with this issue?
What is communication in couples therapy?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary communication is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior”
The Business Dictionary defines communication as “Two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meaning.
In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places. In business, it is a key function of management--an organization cannot operate without communication between levels, departments and employees. See also communications.”
I define communication as the exchange of energy and information between two people. A relationship or marriage cannot operate without communication.
The relationship communication process can go awry quite quickly for numerous reasons. John Gottman, PhD and Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD the creators of the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy identified 4 communication patterns that when present will predict the communication process will spiral downward within 90 seconds.
The Gottmans refer to these 4 communication patterns as the The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. Yes, this alludes to the death and destruction found in the Book of Revelation in the bible but this is where the connection ends.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse also predict divorce or relationship demise or destruction within 5 years with over 90% accuracy hence the reference and name.
What does couples therapy to save or improve your marriage or relationship look like with me?
The Gottman Method Couples Therapy Process
The Couples Therapy Assessment Phase includes:
The Gottman Relationship Checkup is completed online. (Takes about 90 minutes to complete)
The First Couples Therapy Session - 90 minutes:
A joint interview with the couple to obtain history and to get a narrative about your relationship.
The Second Couples Therapy Session - Two Parts - 45 minutes each for a total of 90 minutes
An individual interview with each of you to learn more about you individually.
The Third Couples Therapy Session - 90 minutes - split into two parts
Part One - Feedback (about 45 minutes):
Provide feedback based on the first two sessions and your answers from the Gottman Relationship Checkup. A blueprint of how to move forward and what to address are developed during this session. (About 45 minutes)
Part Two - The Intervention Process begins (about 45 minutes):
The relationship counseling process takes it’s natural course based on the couple’s commitment and participation. I begin to actively help the couple repair, revitalize and rejuvenate their relationship.
Couples Therapy Fees
The assessment - Three 90 minute sessions - $400 per session = $1,200 total.
Once the assessment (first 3 sessions) is completed:
Option 1: $400 per 90 minute session (recommended)
Option 2: $335 per 75 minute session
Option 3: $270 per 60 minute session
Option 4: $225 per 45 minute session
THE FOUR BIG COMMUNICATION MISTAKES THAT COUPLES MAKE
~The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse~
How To Avoid Them
CRITICISM | DEFENSIVENESS | CONTEMPT | STONEWALLING
When you describe your partner/spouse in a way that says there is something wrong with her/him. They are defective in some way or have a flaw in their character.
Example of criticism:
What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just clean up the kitchen after you eat? You’re so lazy.
Antidote - What to do instead
Use a gentle start-up
Gosh, the kitchen is messy. I would really appreciate if you clean up after you’re done eating.
An attempt to protect yourself. This is the typical response to being criticized. Your position is defended against actual or anticipated feedback or criticism.
Example of Defensiveness
It goes something like this “I worked hard today. Why can’t I just leave dishes in the sink for a few minutes. It’s not even that bad”
Antidote - What to do instead
Take responsibility even for a small portion of the issue or problem.
Oh, yes, I did leave dishes in the sink. (That’s it nothing else at this point)
Criticism with a morally superior attitude.
Example of contempt
What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you just clean up the kitchen after you eat? You’re such a lazy slob. I work hard all day and I came home made dinner and cleaned up the kitchen after I was done because I actually have manners and respect for others.
Antidote - What to do instead
State your own feelings, needs and wants. This can be quite challenging because you have to know what your own needs and wants are and then state them in a non critical, non defensive and non contemptuous ways.
I feel really flustered when the kitchen is messy. I would really appreciate it if you could clean up once you’re finished eating.
DO NOT DO THIS:
Sometimes you may be tempted to say "I feel that you’re a lazy slob who should clean up." This is still problematic as you’re describing your partner/spouse.
Stay away from statements that start with “I feel that you” especially as you begin to practice the antidotes to the Four Horsemen.
When one person checks out or withdraws from the conversation because the person has become overwhelmed or physiologically flooded. When the person who is stonewalling is acting as if you’re not there your own emotional upset and anger can increase exponentially. This can then cause you to check out and became physiologically flooded.
Example of Stonewalling:
You're talking to your partner and s/he just stares back at you not saying a word. Perhaps s/he looks away or at their watch etc. Sometimes s/he may have a blank look or confused look on their face.
Antidote - What to do instead
First try to remain in the conversation.
If you're not able to do that STOP the conversation with a simple “I am sorry, I am not able to talk right now. I need to take a break.”
Then take break for at least 30 minutes. The purpose of the break is to self soothe/calm yourself down.
Physiologically flooded means that our pulse is over 100 beats per minute or over 80 beats per minute for those that are quite athletic. In this state we are biologically unable to have a productive conversation. The option is to self soothe.
Self Soothe for at least 30 minutes
Do something to relax such as listening to soothing music, reading your favorite magazine, working in your garden etc. The idea is to calm down.
DO NOT go and gather more ammunition by thinking about all the things you could have said and then come back ready to emotionally blast your partner/spouse.
Try not engage in thoughts such as “Why is s/he doing this to me?” which is called innocent victimhood or thoughts of righteous indignation “I don’t have to put up with this *^*&%%*^.”
Gottman Couples Therapy teaches the couple how to master the antidotes to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Once you've got the antidotes down, you have started the process of changing your communication patterns in your relationship or marriage.
As a Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist this is how I can help you master the communication problems in your relationship.
I will review the Four Horsemen and help you to see how they invade and impact your relationship or marriage. I will teach you how to implement the antidotes until you’re able to implement the antidotes on your own.
I will teach you to help each other implement the antidotes when a horsemen is used as you talk with each other as a couple.
Gottman Method Couples Therapy teaches the couple how to successfully manage conflict in your relationship or marriage
Many couples struggle to manage conflict. Two of the biggest mistakes that couples make are to believe that conflict is bad and try to have a conflict free relationship or marriage.
This is an impossible task when we have two individuals together.
The Gottman Method of Couples counseling provides a pathway to successfully manage conflict versus resolve conflict.
You will learn skills in the following areas:
How to dialogue about problems
How to accept your partner’s Influence
How to Self Soothe
You will learn to identify the two types of problems that are found in relationships or marriages. These are 1) perpetual problems and 2) solvable problems.
Couples Therapy For Perpetual Problems.
About 69% of problems in a relationship or marriage are perpetual problems. Yes this is correct 69% it is not a typo. This means the vast majority of your relationship problems or marriage problems will never go away.
Perpetual problems are the result of fundamental personality differences or lifestyle needs. Couples talk about the same problems over and over. Sometimes there seems to be some headway about the problem and things seem to get better for a short time but only to have the problems re-emerge again and again.
All couples have perpetual problems.
The trick is to determine if you’ve got a set of perpetual problems that you can live with and learn how to discuss these problems without destroying each other and becoming gridlocked on the issues.
This also means if you go into another relationship you’ll be trading one set of perpetual problems for a different set of perpetual problems. This information is based on research conducted by John Gottman, PhD. In other words I am not just making it up.
Couples Therapy For Gridlocked Perpetual Problems
When couples are unable to dialogue about their perpetual problems it leads to emotional disengagement. One of the reasons that a person is not able to yield on a gridlocked problem is that there is a fundamental need or dream or value system that is core to that person’s personality.
Creating a safe atmosphere in the relationship allows the partner to talk about their feelings, needs and dreams.
As the Gottmans say “within the worst relational conflicts lie the greatest opportunities for growth and intimacy”
Couples Therapy for Solvable Problems
Solvable problems are typically situational and a solution can be determined and maintained. One of the keys to resolving solvable problems is to avoid the use of the 4 horsemen.
Solvable problems are often about specific issues such as house cleaning, discipline of children or sex.
The 6 Skills from Couples Therapy for managing conflict in a relationship or marriage
Softened/Gentle Start up
Repair and De-escalation
Physiological Self Soothing
Accept What You Cannot Change (understanding your partner’s way of thinking)
Accept Your Partner’s Influence
Affairs | Cheating | Infidelity
Of all the issues a couple may face infidelity/cheating/an affair whether emotional or physical is perhaps one of the worse as it rips at the very fabric of the relationship.
The feelings are wide ranging when a person who believes that s/he/they are in a monogamous relationship finds out there has been a betrayal.
The person who has been betrayed frequently ends up traumatized and in many cases develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Affairs wreak havoc on relationships.
However, before going further there is something that folks have to figure out. If there has been an affair you have to determine if you’re involved with someone who cheated or you’re involved with a cheater.
What’s the difference between someone who cheated and a cheater?
Someone who has cheated
This person forms a relationship with another person that infringes on the boundaries of the primary relationship.
It starts out innocently enough.
The person begins to confide in, flirt with, keep the relationship secret from their partner/spouse and begin to share negative comparisons of their partner/spouse with the other person.
This person finds the new person more exciting, easier to talk with, and more understanding among other things. This is the beginning of an emotional affair and often cascade to a physical affair.
One question to ask yourself is “how would you feel if your partner was engaging in these behaviors?”
Check out the Someone Who Cheats Cascade.
Someone who has no intention of being in a monogamous relationship but will pretend that s/he/they want to be in one.
This person may or may not keep other relationships secret.
If found out this person expects their spouse/partner to understand and not make a big deal about it.
Please note this is not the same as a polyamorous relationship in which all partners agree on the parameters of the relationship.
Nor is this the same for those who agree to be in an open relationship.
Can a relationship recover from an affair?
The answer is YES BUT it requires a significant amount of commitment and hard work.
The Gottman Couples Therpy
Trust Revival Method
The Affair Recovery System
The Three Distinct Phases of Recovery From An Affair
The Betrayed Partner
May have tons of questions regarding the affair.
Will most likely want to ask questions about the affair(s).
The who, what, where, when and how is talked about.
This is the very beginning to the healing process as often this is a corrective experience for the betrayed partner to obtain validation that s/he was not crazy.
Frequently when an affair is occurring the betrayer engages in behaviors that leaves the betrayed partner feeling as if s/he is going crazy.
Sex related questions are not permitted as these often result in increased trauma for the betrayed partner.
The “WHY” of the affair is not examined in this phase as it often results in the betrayed partner feeling or being blamed.
Be completely open, honest and transparent with her/his answers to the questions posed by the betrayed partner.
Must cut off all contact with the affair person
The entire sordid truth.
Becomes an open book - total access to emails, cell phones and any contact with the affair person must be shared
This is NOT the time to pull a “Bill Clinton” by mincing words, glossing over or minimizing the details and impact of the affair
Listen empathically and express deep and real remorse
Ends conflict avoidance
Creates a narrative about how the affair came about
Couple learns to turn towards each other’s bids for emotional connection
Replace negativity such as trash talking about your partner and resentments with appreciation, cherishing and gratitude.
Establish yourself as a couple through a set of norms in a community that supports your relationship.
Develops skills to talk about gridlocked perpetual issues
Learns and implements skills to have intimate conversations
Develops mutual investment, interdependence and sacrifices for the relationship.
Builds commitment and has a positive regard for each other and engages in pro-relationship activities.
Sets up a formal high cost for future betrayals.
Creates personal sex and intimate trust. This is usually one of the final building blocks in the repair and recovery process.
New shared meaning is brought into the relationship.
These complex processes are guided by me your expert Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist and as they say on Myth Busters should not be tried at home.
Couples Therapy For Drug Addiction
Couples who are experiencing the impact of drug addiction or alcohol addiction are often at a loss as to how to proceed and how to get help. Much of the help out there is geared towards individuals. Very little is directed at helping couples through the maze of problems and challenges, and negative consequences that result from drug addiction or alcohol addiction.
Have you been struggling with the negative consequences of addiction in your relationship or marriage?
Are you ready to commit to rebuilding your relationship or marriage by learning about addiction as a disease versus character failure?
Are you ready to commit to your own recovery process and the recovery process for your relationship?
Are you willing to make the sacrifices and changes needed to have the type of relationship you dream of?
Couples Therapy when drug or alcohol abuse or other addictions are present in the relationship:
Identify the addiction
Addiction is a treatable disease
Develop a process to move from active addiction to recovery
Improve conflict management skills
Learn the difference between “codependency” and “interdependency” and how to identify and set appropriate boundaries
Develop a relationship recovery plan while supporting your partner’s recovery and strengthening your own individual recovery
Heal from the negative impact of addiction
Work towards health and wellness as individuals, as a couple and as a family if children are involved.
Couples Therapy when Trauma is present in the relationship:
What is trauma?
Trauma is the emotional result that occurs after a person has experienced an event in which the following occurred at the same time:
you felt helpless
the event was frightening, unexpected and occurred suddenly
you felt your life was at stake
you felt emotionally out of control
you felt isolated
It is the combination of the above that occurs at the time of the event that creates trauma. While most people heal on heir own from traumatic events this does not always occur.
Trauma is highly disruptive to relationships because the person experiences and lives with high levels of anxiety and fear. A person with trauma can be angry, irritable, unpredictable, impulsive, constantly scanning for danger or looking at the negative and have problematic use of drugs and alcohol. It is important to obtain professional treatment if you have experienced trauma and it is still negatively impacting your relationship or marriage.
How does couples therapy help those who have experienced trauma
how trauma impacts their relationship or marriage
how to manage the symptoms of trauma when they occur
learn how to have their needs met
Learn how to manage conflict
Process past regrettable incidents that were compounded by symptoms of trauma
Create meaning together despite trauma.
To schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation to see if couples therapy with me is a match for your relationship or marriage
Find a Gottman trained therapist in your area:
The Gottman Referral Network