“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
- Carl Rogers
Couple and Family Therapy
We certainly can’t force anyone around us to change - not our partner, and not our families. And our partners and families aren’t likely to decide to change either, if they sense you are trying to change them.
However, we can deepen understanding and acceptance of those we love, and we certainly can cultivate a relationship that is more responsive each members’ needs.
Couple or family therapy is a great place to remind ourselves of why relationships are so important to us despite their challenges, to identify and communicate our needs in non-threatening ways, and to have our feelings and perspectives heard and understood by the ones who matter most to us.
Couple therapy may benefit you…
…If you struggle with feeling heard, known, or understood in your relationship.
When one person in a relationship doesn’t feel heard or understood, generally both partners don’t feel heard or understood. As each person tries to have their perspectives and feelings acknowledged, the other is busy formulating how they will get their partner to hear and understand their different side. Obviously this is very problematic.
Fortunately, therapy can offer a safe space where both partners can be heard and understood. Even when perspectives are greatly different, the validation and acknowledgement that this leads to can be very healing to a relationship, and this can act as an important foundation for resolving greater differences.
…If the trust between you and your partner was broken and you are wondering if this can be rebuilt and the relationship saved.
Couples may seek counseling for a variety of issues related to trust. The issue may involve honesty. It may involve a broken agreement. There may be a pattern of not following through and acting dependably. Or their may have been a short term or long term affair.
Whenever trust has been broken in a relationship, it creates serious instability in the relationship, as it involves much more than desire to be connected and valued, but also a need to feel emotionally secure.
In order to re-establish security in a relationship, there needs to be deepened understanding of why the transgression(s) happened in the first place, so that partners can have a sense of why they would not need to expect this in the future as well. The betrayed partner also needs to experience their own ability to handle and heal from such suffering.
A trained therapist is often needed to help couples navigate the roller coaster of emotions that typically arise through the healing process, and to help couples emerge at a place where they can logically address whether or not to rebuild and establish a stronger, more satisfying relationship.
…If you question your compatibility and reasons for getting married and want to explore the strength of your relationship.
When thinking about long-term commitment with anyone, there is a lot to sort out and consider. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a therapist who can help you distinguish what are personality characteristics that are unlikely to change, and what are learned interactional patterns and behaviors that are flexible to processing and attunement.
It can be helpful to break down personality characteristics and explore how these interact together in your specific relationship. A trained therapist can help clarify these dynamics and illuminate how these characteristics might impact your relationship.
It can also be helpful to identify and delve into some of the common interactional patterns experienced in the relationship. Often these unexamined patterns are based on what we learned in our families of origin.
With effort, these patterns can be adjusted through conscious recognition and supported practice of new skills. If these types of questions come up in your relationship, couple therapy may be very helpful for you.
Couple therapy may help you:
- Deepen Connection and Intimacy
- Define Roles that Fit for Your Relationship
- Explore Parenting Styles and Develop a Shared Plan
- Feel More Accepted and Appreciated in Your Relationship
- Find Compromise in Balancing Togetherness and Separateness
- Increase Responsiveness in Your Relationship
- Improve Communication
- Practice New Ways of Interacting
- Rebuild Trust After Betrayals
- Strengthen Your Sense of Emotional Safety in Your Relationship
Family therapy may benefit you…
…If your teen or child doesn’t want to go to counseling to work on their emotions or behaviors, as you would like them to.
This is so very common. Kids, and teens in particular, can sometimes be very resistant to counseling, especially when they interpret your suggestion to see a counselor as a message that they are the problem in the family, and you want them to go to counseling to be different.
Although some parents may have the initial inclination to respond, “The problem IS with them and I DO want them to be different!” the truth of the matter is generally that it isn’t the child that you want to change; it is some of their behaviors that are driving you mad.
Still, some parents feel that it’s unfair for them to put in the work when they feel it is their child’s behaviors that are the problem, and others wonder how it’s possible to make any change without the person who is engaging in problematic behaviors being there.
Fortunately though, behavioral changes can and do happen by making strategic changes to the environments that kids are making choices in, and children can and do end up acknowledging and taking responsibility for their actions when they are able to recognize reasonable consequences as being a result of their own choices.
If you are having problems with a child’s or teen’s extreme behaviors, please know that this is a struggle more common than most people think, and one that therapists like myself are trained to help you work through.
…If you and another family member have unresolved conflicts that have created distance and resentment in your relationship.
This happens often with siblings, parents, or in-laws. Some event, or events, happen and feelings are hurt, but because of the ability to maintain some physical distance over time, the feelings never get discussed and resolved. Resentment builds, and often additional hurts are piled on.
Generally, people feel extremely hurt in these situations because the other’s actions, or reactions, feel very personal. After all, close relationships are personal. Coming together and processing around these events can therefore feel very vulnerable.
The ability to hear one another can be especially difficult when interpretations have already been established in each person’s mind, and each person has waited so long to speak and be heard themselves.
In these situations, having a therapist to help guide the communication process and insure that each person’s perspectives are heard and understood, can make all the difference when it comes to successful reconciliation and healing.
Family therapy may help you:
- Change Interactional Patterns
- Communicate Needs Directly, Rather than Passively
- Create Structure to Support and Encourage Behavioral Changes
- Determine Potential Solutions for Meeting the Needs of all Family Members
- Develop Understanding of Different Perspectives
- Establish Reasonable Boundaries
- Identify Expectations and Explore Sensibleness of These
- Find Ways to Accept and Respect Differences
- Support Adjustments to a Blending Family