Marriage Counseling | Relationship Counseling
My counseling style uses elements of coaching and therapy, so it is designed to be fairly short-term. In my experience of over 20 years of working exclusively with marriages and relationships, I find that you can do deep and effective work and gain tools for your future in a fairly short term approach. People either come to do the work they need to do, or not. Dragging out counseling does not change that.
For a couple, it can range from 4 or 5 sessions up to 14. I would say an average is about 8-10 sessions. It will depend on what your issues are and the effort you put into doing the work in-between sessions as well as in your time with me. For example, recovery from an affair can require more sessions than many other issues because of the damage that has been done at so many levels. If you have a few stuck areas, communication or conflict resolution issues, or are trying to enrich or build a strong foundation for the future, it will take less than an affair. Your commitment makes a big difference in your rate of progress.
I do see individuals who are not currently in a marriage or committed relationship to work on relationship issues. However, if you are in a committed love relationship, both people need to come. If you have a spouse or partner who refuses, they need to come to at least the first session. Otherwise, I do not have their input and perspective.
How to Get Your Spouse or Partner to Couples Counseling
I give couples practical information, tools and skills to address your concerns, to deepen connection, and to help you create the relationship you both want. While YOU will ultimately decide the future of your marriage or partnership, my bias is toward helping you build the kind of marriage or relationship you want together. After working for over 20 years exclusively with marriage and partnerships, I can tell you that there is usually much more hope to build a more satisfying relationship than couples think!
In couples counseling, I teach you, I coach you, but I also help you get to the one or two roots that underlie most of your conflict or disconnection. I help you identify and make the few changes that can have the most impact on the core of the issue.
Good marriage counseling is not usually about making massive amounts of change. It's learning to make the few changes that will have the greatest impact. When you address the issues at the root that feeds them, your changes affect multiple issues at once. You can also find more creative ways to step out of the power struggle and meet the needs of BOTH partners.
My counseling is based in the research-based theory and tools of Imago Relationship Therapy developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and also informed by the work of noted marriage researcher, John Gottman, Ph.D. and others. Within the last 10 years, research in neuroscience that focuses on the self in relationship, self-regulation, and creating emotional safety has shed light on how to help people learn to make changes more successfully. However, in the end, YOU are the ones who will implement what you learn, or not.
While we talk about challenging issues in your relationship, I do not allow couples to just fight in my office and expect me to be the referee. Instead, I teach you HOW to talk and understand at a deeper level, and to work through those challenging issues from a place of connection.
I use a 'growth model' instead of a 'medical model' for couples counseling. That means I do not diagnose clients with 'mental disorders' (which insurance requires and sometimes partners THINK they have!), I assume couples have patterns that lead to distress, conflict, and disconnection that come partially from mutual self-protection patterns. Often couples accidentally trigger tender spots and 'buttons' in each other. Spouses are rarely trying to hurt each other -- but every spouse or partner does hurt the one they love -- by accident. Some of of their patterns come from their personal and relational history -- both the positives and negatives. I ALSO assume individuals and couples have strengths upon which they can build a solid, satisfying marriage or relationship if they can learn and implement better information, tools and skills.
Occasionally people decide to end their relationship. However, in the situations where that happens, most of those couples are also glad they did some work to change their own destructive relationship patterns, or to parent their children well without letting the old marriage conflicts bleed into their parenting decisions.
• Regular counseling sessions of 1 hour (the 1st one is 1.5 hours)
• Extended sessions (3-4 hours)
* Intensives (1-2 days)
• Private or regular weekend workshops
The first session of couples counseling is 1.5 hours and is different from other sessions because part of it includes going over your goals, issues, how we will work, etc. I try to give you a taste of how future sessions will work. Then I send you home to decide
1) if I am a good 'fit' for you (if not, I'm happy to give you a referral)
2) if you are willing to make a commitment to do the work (I do not require a commitment to do a certain number of sessions, but without a commitment to doing the work, you will waste time and money. Either the counseling will take longer than necessary, or you will not take the steps you need to make meaningful change.
I like to do a few sessions fairly close together (1-2 weeks apart) to lay a foundation and then I like to spread them out a little more so couples can implement the work in-between sessions. The idea is to help you integrate it successfully so you can continue using the tools and skills long after you finish working with me.
- I usually recommend extended sessions of 3-4 hours for couples who live in other areas of Florida, or have a very long drive to my office. With extended sessions, we can do a good chunk of work, send you home with things to implement so that you can do the work in fewer sessions. Sometimes I will see a couple once, then have them return in 2-3 weeks to give them a foundation to work, then spread out the extended sessions to once a month.
Intensives of 1-2 full days of couples counseling (7 hours a day) came into being for couples who flew in from out of state to work with me. I offer that to any couple where the couple and I think it will work best for that particular couple.
Private Couples Workshops�A related option is a private couples workshop of 2 days which combines the counseling/coaching aspect of an intensive with some of the key pieces of the weekend workshop. It is one couple and me in my office.
My focus is on your marriage or relationship, and/or your relational patterns that work and don't work in your marriage or partnership.
If either of you have issues with alcohol, drugs, other addictions, chronic depression or anxiety (not just related to the relationship situation), diagnosed personality or other mental disorders, you need to address that outside of marriage, couples, or relationship counseling. Clearly people are often depressed or anxious when they have disconnection, conflict, or other distress in their marriage or relationship. We can discuss your particular situation in the first session to decide what combination of work will be best.
Sometimes spouses or partner's think their partner has a mental disorder and they do not! They may be reacting to patterns in the relationship that trigger primal reactions that don't work, but that is part of what we address in couples counseling or individual relationship counseling.
However, addictions, and chronic problems that go above and beyond the normal relationship issues will continually sabotage your progress in marriage counseling. In these situations I require that the person begin treatment, recovery, or counseling for those issues -- or to be at a point of maintaining well with medication for those situations. Each person and couple differs as to when to start couples counseling when they are working on those other issues. If you are currently in counseling or a program, I will coordinate with your individual counselor. (Informed consent will be required and partner information is not shared unless you sign a specific release for it.)
See our office information for listing of fees and our policy on use of insurance.
• Should we go to marriage counseling or to a weekend Getting the Love You Want couples workshop?
• When should you go to marriage or relationship counseling?
• Choosing a Counselor or Coach for your Marriage or Relationship
• What to Expect in Marriage or Relationship Counseling with Dawn
- Our next regular Getting the Love You Want Workshop for Couples:
• August 26-28th, 2016
(Private couples' workshops also available)
Our last couples' workshop group was wonderful! Congratuations to all the couples who did amazing work!
- Harville Hendrix & Helen Hunt recently released new book:
Making Marriage Simple
Pardon our re-modeling!
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You may find pages that look completely different from others, so please bear with me!