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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.

Rituals for Mother’s Day

Contrary to the cynic’s belief, Mother’s Day is not an invention of Hallmark. The roots actually predate Hallmark, going back to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Now's a good time to think about Mother's Day rituals in your family. According to Wikipedia, Mother’s Day in America was created by Anna Jarvis Grafton in 1908 as a day to honor mothers everywhere. Jarvis was inspired by her mother's dream of making a celebration for all mothers. President Woodrow Wilson made the day an official national holiday in 1914. The holiday eventually became so highly commercialized that many, including its founder, Anna Jarvis, considered it a “Hallmark holiday,” one with an overwhelming commercial purpose.… Read more...

What new marriages can learn from failed restaurants

As you probably know, the divorce rate for American couples in a first marriage is about 50%. When you factor in the high numbers of couples who don’t divorce, but stay together in mutual misery, the track record for failed marriages is even worse.… Read more...

Disaster Preparedness for Your Marriage

Empty couch in earthquake I live with my wife, Ellyn, over a major earthquake fault line in the San Francisco Bay area. It’s an area famous for past and inevitable future quake distasters. Geological experts predict another big one is coming. Be prepared. Ellyn and I have stored a few bottles of water and a camping stove. Do you think that is sufficient? Neither do the experts. They say if we retrofit the foundation of our home we can withstand almost all but the most severe shake rattle and rolls. Have we taken advantage of this knowledge? Or do we wait until disaster hits with the violence that could wreck our lives for years. We wait.… Read more...

Is your marriage in distress? Repair the dam before it’s too late.

Perhaps you have heard of the famous Johnstown flood on May 31, 1889. It was caused by catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam 14 miles upstream of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. What could this have to do with a marriage in distress?… Read more...

Tracking Success by Doing “The Daily Double”

Sport couple of athletes successHere’s something you can do for your relationship today. It’s called The Daily Double and it's a way of tracking success in your relationship. You earn two points today by doing two positive things on the positive list below, while avoiding doing any of the negative behaviors from the list at the end.… Read more...

New Research: A big cause of marital distress is . . . Santa Claus.

for santa syndrome blog v2That’s right dear reader, Santa Claus causes marital distress. Please back away from the ledge and take a deep breath. You will need it for what follows. What is a common tradition for many children at Christmas time? They write to Santa for all the things they want. Or they sit on his lap in a shopping mall and tell him directly. Then they wait for the big day. “Whoopee – look what Santa brought me!” the kids say. “I just asked. And then there it was … a miracle. I didn’t have to do a darn thing except ask for it. Just by asking, I got a lot of what I wanted. I must be really special.” Fast forward to a distressed couple in a therapist’s office.… Read more...

Taking the stress out of holiday preparation

Sisyphus from Greek mythology was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, getting close to the top only to see it rolling down again. Does your holiday preparation feel like a similar fate? For example, let's say you are hosting the happy event. Let's assume the lion’s share of preparation has always fallen on you. Perhaps you have functioned like Sisyphus: every year you do most of the work, hoping your partner will step up and initiate more so you can enjoy the gathering. When that doesn’t happen, you feel depleted and angry. Like Sisyphus, you have been condemned to repeat the process.… Read more...

Valentine’s Day Couples Game: Design Your Ideal Partner

heart on purple_225 Do you have a partner with a habit or flaw you’d like to eliminate, tweak or fix? Let’s turn it into a Valentine's Day Couples Game where you can design your ideal partner.… Read more...

6 Ways to Holiday-Proof Your Relationship

nuts, oramge and xmas lightsThe hustle and the bustle of the holiday season are upon us. It’s not an easy time even for folks in perfectly happy relationships, much less anyone who feels tension or is struggling with a significant other. Here are 6 ways to reduce holiday stress.… 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.