Managing Emotions

How to Get the Most From Your Couples Therapy

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them. I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas. After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective. First, I do have some expectations of you. I am not neutral. I have evolved principles and concepts that I believe give us the greatest chance for success.

Has your spouse cheated on you?

…a starting point for overcoming the pain of infidelity. Holy #@%!, I don’t need to tell you about the anguish you’re going through if you've discovered your partner cheated. Most couples don’t have a “no cheat” agreement. It is simply assumed you won’t lie about who you are with and what you are doing. The discovery feels like getting hit in the stomach by a cinder block flying at the speed of sound. Suddenly it feels like your relationship was built on a pile of broken stones. What’s real? What can you believe? You wonder if you are crazy. (You’re not.) You wonder if you should stay or go. You contemplate the painful uncertainties of any decision you make.… Read more...

My Marriage Is Like a Bunch of Rhinos

White rhinocerosEllyn and I have a special interest in Africa. We’ve been fortunate to travel there a few times, building classrooms in refugee camps and sometimes even going on safaris. On our last African safari I discovered the correlation between rhinos and my marriage.… Read more...

Combat holiday stress with this brain hack

It’s common knowledge that the holidays can be stressful for lots of people. Some of the stress comes from feeling overwhelmed by the added projects, tasks, expenses and other obligations of the season. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed balancing expectations of different family members. Or you’re frustrated trying to make everyone happy. Another kind of stress comes from other people in the extra social interactions and gatherings. Maybe you’re caught off guard by zingers from a supporter of the “other” political party. Or you’re stuck in conversation with the brother-in-law who criticizes everybody for something – and you for everything.… Read more...

Stress-Free Valentine’s Day

  Less Stress & More Fun Holidays can sometimes be stressful for couples—especially Valentine’s Day. One partner may be imagining something very specific to celebrate the day. The other partner may not have a clue of what that thing is. The result can be disappointment and confusion. Rather than hurt feelings and a Valentine’s Day gone sideways, take steps to create a relaxed and fun celebration with your beloved. What Would Your Partner Like? Take the stress out of Valentine’s Day by having a conversation about it. You can ask your sweetheart, “What do you think you might enjoy for Valentine’s Day?”… Read more...

A Surprising (and Magical) Perspective on Your Marriage

  couples-communicationEvery couple has some aggravations with their relationship that seem to defy understanding. “Why in the heck does he/she keep doing that when it is guaranteed to start an argument?” Sometimes these puzzles are hard to figure out. But if you ask different questions or ask them in a different way, you might get a new insight about why these things happen. This takes some detective work but the effort is worthwhile to increase understanding and perhaps avoid some of those common relationship annoyances. Here's a different and fun way to sharpen your sleuthing skills. Click on the following website. … Read more...

What’s That You Said? The Fears That Prevent Us From Speaking Up

How much do you value being seen and heard? Do you really want a truly successful relationship? How important is it to have impact on others? Let's look at speaking up! Of course, for some people, that's easier said than done. You might prefer to sky dive without a parachute than tell another person what's really on your mind. But it is possible to develop an assertiveness connected to head and heart that clears the way for honest, empowered living-without being rude to others. Those who stay mum when they would be better off speaking their mind do so for a variety of reasons: Fear of being rejected. Any time you risk disclosing what you want and why it is important, you become vulnerable.… Read more...

More On Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and Stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” From personal and professional experience I know that's not true. And the scientific proof has just become quite dramatic. I recently read in a professional journal that neuroscientists have discovered that the place in our brain that lights up when we are hit by sticks and stones, or when we step barefoot on broken glass is the same area that lights up when we are rejected. Rejection comes in lots of varieties. It can include a refusal to grant a request, and it means to throw away or discard as unsatisfactory, to repudiate, renounce, rebuff or deny.… Read more...

A Successful Marriage is a Series of Unnatural Acts

I recently completed my 64th weekend workshop for couples. Once again I was impressed by a group of intrepid couples who were willing to leave their emotional comfort zone to create a more successful marriage for themselves. One of the exercises of the workshop is brainstorming a list of effective communication behaviors and attitudes. Then I ask the group how many saw their families exercise these behaviors 50% or more of the time when things got tense. I never have had more than 15% of the couples raise their hands. What this means is that under stress, effective communication is statistically exceptional.… Read more...

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.