Peter Pearson

Couples Resources

This page, organized by the type of program, summarizes the various couples resources that are offered by The Couples Institute. These are in addition to couples therapy, which is described here. Couples Workshops Sign up to join Michelle Wangler Joy, M.A., MFT, for the next Couples Communication Workshop to learn skills to overcome stubborn relationship challenges. Invite one of our therapists to speak to your couples, parents, or family-focused community group by contacting our office here. E-Book Initiating Calm Discussions In this e-book by Ellyn Bader, Ph.D. and Peter Pearson, Ph.D., you will discover three different perspectives for every discussion.… Read more...

Effective Communication Goes Against Human Nature

Communication is the most common presenting problem of couples in my practice. Yet, it is not truly the main problem. Even if couples utterly fail to talk, negotiate, or make decisions, there's a bigger problem than communication. When you're in a tense, difficult or nasty discussion with your partner, the problem isn't communication. The problem is your distressed emotional reaction about what they are saying. If your distress is severe enough, you are on the way to being at your worst. When you are at your worst, you're likely to bring out the worst in your partner. But you really hope your partner will respond with their higher self.… Read more...

How to Write an Apology

Being apologetic doesn't come easily for me. Unfortunately, being inconsiderate and self-centered does. So I realized long ago that my marital survival would depend on two things: 1) learning to apologize and 2) becoming less selfish and more considerate. It was easier to start with apologies. Over time I got better and better at learning how to apologize. I was amazed at the effect. First, it was the basic mumbling of, “I'm sorry.” Those two words were remarkable in healing bruised feelings. It was as if I had a license to do what I wanted– as long as I looked sincere and said, “I'm sorry.”… Read more...

Super Negotiating for Couples

Marriage is a challenge. Growing your business is a challenge. What happens when you try to combine the two? I know first-hand how daunting it is to blend these two endeavors. You see, I'm in business with my wife. For over twenty years my wife and I, both psychologists, have directed The Couples Institute. As psychologists specializing in marriage counseling, we should have all the skills necessary to blend business and marriage, right? In fact, the opportunities for us to disagree are practically limitless. Fortunately, the opportunities for us to grow together are even greater. For our own personal and marital survival we have had to develop some really effective methods to make decisions, solve problems, and negotiate better solutions.… Read more...

Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

I have a confession to make. I want to be accepted for who I am. I hear this lament from so many couples, it's universal. I bet you've even had the same thought yourself. Our culture teaches, “I'm okay, you're okay,” unconditional love, and win-wins for all. So what's the problem? I know it well. When my wife, Ellyn, criticizes me, I often think, “Hey, get off my back.” But this is just a camouflaged way of wanting unconditional acceptance. I'd rather she accept my behavior so I don't have to take a closer look at what's going on, work to improve myself, or negotiate a compromise with her.… Read more...

Take Time in Confronting Spouse’s Annoying Habits

Today's question is answered by therapist Peter Pearson, co-founder of the Menlo Park Couples Institute. QUESTION: My husband and I have been married 20 years, and we get along well most of the time, but lately a new habit of his is driving me crazy. He will stay up much later than I do to ”work”; then I get up to go to the bathroom and find him playing Solitaire on the computer at 2 a.m. It's such a waste of time, plus he doesn't get enough sleep. I think he is addicted to the game. Am I nuts to let this bug me? I know he feels guilty because if he hears me coming, he switches from Solitaire to work. ANSWER: At the heart of every marital complaint is one person who's annoyed or frustrated at something a partner does or does not do.… 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.