Hillary Harris, M.A.

Hillary Harris is a clinical intern who provides therapy in Reno, NV with Relationship Counseling Associates. July, 2024 photo

Meet Hillary Harris

Hi, I’m Hillary Harris, a Clinical Professional Counselor Intern therapist in Reno. Whether you’re experiencing loneliness, misunderstanding, disconnection or unhealed wounds, I can help. I have specialized training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a gold-standard for relationship counseling.

Research consistently shows that a strong therapeutic relationship, also called the therapeutic alliance, is vital for successful treatment. My goal is to create a supportive and collaborative environment where we can build emotional and relationship resilience. Using my specialized training, I help clients identify and disrupt negative cycles to foster lasting change. I’m passionate about working with couples, first responders, military personnel, those experiencing relationship loss, and individuals with PTSD. Additionally, I am part of a highly-collaborative team and do regular case consultation with our Clinical Director, Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW and Clinical Lead, Amanda Stewart, LCSW.

My military experience gives me insight into the unique challenges of high-stress jobs with chronic exposure to intense content. Additionally, for those interested, I am also comfortable incorporating Christian faith-based principles to support the client’s personal values and belief.

At Emotional and Relationship Health Counseling Associates, our team provides attentive and personalized support. If you’re searching for a therapist in Reno, call us. We can discuss our approach and see if we’re the right fit. We offer a free consultation.

My standard session fee is $120. Our team is here to help you navigate your challenges and support your healing and growth. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. This is your first step towards improving your emotional wellbeing and relationship health. I look forward to supporting you on the path of self-awareness, self-acceptance, joy, and meaning.

Relationship Counseling in Reno: Support for Healthy Relationships

Relationship Counseling in Reno offices of Emotional & Relationship Health, Counseling Associates. Therapy in Reno

Relationship Counseling in Reno: Support for Healthy Relationships

Our therapists in Reno provide skilled relationship counseling, where individuals and couples can explore and enhance their emotional connections within the framework of attachment-science-based therapy.

What is Relationship Counseling?

Relationship counseling is an intentional, focused, structured process. One where clients engage with a therapist to dissect and address the nuances of their relationship. It’s a chance to look, without judgment or side-taking, at the emotional undercurrents that influence relationship functioning. In a safe, accepting therapeutic setting, couples experience articulating their feelings, listening and being listened to, and validating each other’s experiences. Very importantly, this process is not about assigning blame. Rather, it is about discovering, distilling and uncovering. Specifically, uncovering how each partner’s early experiences and the behaviors these experiences have shaped contribute to how they show up in relationship. It’s a step toward mutual understanding and empathy, providing a foundation for more authentic and supportive interactions. By participating in counseling, couples commit to a journey of self-discovery and joint growth, laying the groundwork for a more resilient and fulfilling partnership.

Benefits of Relationship Counseling

Improved Communication

One of the primary benefits of relationship counseling is the enhancement of communication skills. Counselors facilitate discussions that help partners articulate their needs, fears, and desires more clearly, fostering a deeper understanding. This process is crucial for breaking down walls of misunderstanding and building bridges of care. In this way couples learn not just to talk but to communicate with intention, listening not only to words but to the emotions and meanings beneath them. This heightened level of communication fosters a sense of closeness and trust, enabling partners to express themselves freely and understand each other on a more profound level.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Effective conflict resolution is another significant benefit of relationship counseling. With this aim, couples learn to approach disagreements with a mindset geared toward resolution and mutual understanding rather than victory. The counselor introduces strategies to de-escalate tensions, promote constructive dialogue, and explore underlying issues contributing to conflicts. This approach helps partners see conflicts as joint problems to solve rather than battles to win, shifting the dynamics from adversarial to collaborative. As couples develop these skills, they find that conflicts become less frequent and less intense, and they’re able to navigate disagreements with greater ease and understanding.

How Relationship Counseling Works

Understanding the Issues

The initial phase of relationship counseling involves delving into the couple’s history, individual backgrounds, and the specific challenges they face. This exploration is guided by the principles of attachment-science-based therapy, which emphasizes the importance of secure emotional bonds. The therapist helps the couple identify patterns of interaction that may be rooted in their attachment styles, offering insights into how these patterns influence their relationship. This phase is crucial for setting the stage for meaningful change, as it lays bare the dynamics that need addressing. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand, couples and therapists can collaboratively devise a path forward that honors each partner’s needs and the relationship’s potential for growth.

Developing Action Plans

With a clear understanding of the relationship’s dynamics, couples move on to developing actionable strategies to address their challenges. These plans are tailored to the couple’s unique situation, focusing on fostering secure, supportive interactions based on attachment science. Goals always include enhancing emotional availability, improving responsiveness, and creating a more secure attachment bond. The therapist works closely with the couple, providing guidance, support, and feedback as they experiment with new ways of relating to each other. This phase is dynamic and interactive, with the therapist adapting strategies as the couple evolves, ensuring that the action plans remain relevant and effective in promoting healthy, lasting changes in the relationship.

Finding the Right Counselor

Selecting a therapist who aligns with your values and understands the nuances of your relationship is pivotal. In Reno, where we practice attachment-science-based therapy, it’s essential to find a counselor with expertise in working with relationships. Our approach at Emotional & Relationship Counseling Associates, focuses on building and reinforcing secure attachment bonds, a fundamental aspect of healthy relationships. When choosing a counselor, consider their background in attachment theory, their experience with couples, and their approach to therapy. It’s often helpful to schedule an initial consultation to gauge the therapist’s compatibility with your needs and to discuss your goals for counseling. The right therapist should provide a safe, non-judgmental space where both partners feel comfortable and supported, fostering open communication and genuine progress in the relationship. In this supportive environment, couples can explore their dynamics, address their challenges, and work collaboratively towards a stronger, more connected partnership.

Questions To Ask a Therapist Before You Start

Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW is a therapist and founder / director of therapy in Reno, NV practice: Emotional & Relationship Health Associates. Reno, NV Specialist in Couple counseling

Starting couple’s therapy is a significant step towards improving your relationship. However, finding the right therapist for you and your partner can be difficult. It requires an evaluation process, for which you need the right criteria. You want confidence that the therapist’s expertise aligns with your specific needs. A prospective therapist should be willing to do a brief consultation before you begin working together. Below, I’ve shared a list of what experience has taught me are some of the most important questions to ask a therapist you’re considering working with. I’ve divided the questions into three categories: 1) A Therapist’s qualifications. 2) The therapist’s theoretical perspective on relationship distress, and on wellness. 3) The therapist’s process.

Here is a checklist of questions you might ask during a consultation with a potential new couple therapist to find out if they’re right for you:

Couple Therapist Qualifications

Experience and Professional Engagement
Approximately what percentage of your practice over the last two years has been dedicated to working with couples?” And, “do you have a regular consultation process wherein you discuss your work?” These questions aim to assess the therapist’s dedication to couples therapy. A therapist applying techniques learned for individual therapy to the complexities of a couple’s dynamics can fall far short of what a relationship needs.

Specialized Couple Therapy Training and Qualifications
What specific training in couples therapy have you undertaken?” Exploring their specialized training provides insight into their qualifications and dedication, facilitating the process of finding the right therapist for you. Prospective therapists should be able to describe application of a method of therapy relative to their training. An EFT Couple Therapist can describe their process in a detailed fashion.
“Do you have specific training regarding difficulties related to sexuality?” This is an important question for couples struggling with problems relating to sexuality to ask.

Feedback and Evaluation Process
“How do you provide feedback and evaluate progress in therapy?” This question allows couples to understand how the therapist assesses progress and navigates therapeutic milestones. A transparent feedback mechanism is vital for ensuring that therapy remains aligned with the couple’s goals and for making necessary adjustments to the therapeutic approach.

Couple Therapist’s Theoretical Orientation

Therapist’s Theoretical Orientation
“What theoretical perspective guides your work with couples?” It is essential that the therapist operates from a solid theoretical foundation, such as Attachment Theory, which is at the heart of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT). The approach a therapist takes should be grounded in solid theory. Also, there should be a structured methodology to effectively address relationship distress.

Does the Therapist Understand When NOT to Do Couple Counseling?
“What are the Contraindications to Couple Therapy?” A prospective therapist should be clear about this. They should describe when the type of couple’s therapy they do might not be the best choice or should be approached with caution. Common contraindications follow: Severe mental illness and substance use disorders that interfere with participation. Misaligned agendas for therapy. Ongoing affairs that threaten a partner’s sense of security. Also, a risk of violence that prohibits vulnerability. In some cases, addressing the contraindicating issue (such as through individual therapy, addiction treatment, or safety planning) can make couple therapy like EFT a viable option later on.

Therapist’s Focus: Emotional Connection or Behavioral Contracts?
“How important is the emotional bond versus behavioral contracts in your approach to couple dynamics?” Herein, a therapist who emphasizes strengthening the emotional connection addresses the core issues of relationship distress effectively. The late Dr. Sue Johnson’s insight, “it’s about the bond, not a bargain,” poignantly captures the essence of couple therapy.

Perspective on Enhancing Communication Skills
“How do you work to enhance communication skills in your therapy sessions?” Ideally, the therapist’s approach should highlight the importance of fostering trust that your partner is available, responsive and emotionally engaged. By contrast, a focus on mere communication techniques can interfere with the depth of understanding in the relationship. “I statements” and similar “communication tips” don’t come online readily when intense emotion gets stirred. This is a very important distinction in finding the right therapist for you.

Couple Therapist’s Process

Expectations for Therapy Duration and Frequency
“What are your expectations for the duration and frequency of therapy sessions?” This question helps set realistic expectations for the therapy process. For example, you want to understand how long it might take to see improvements and how often sessions will occur. Therapy is a significant investment. It’s crucial for planning and commitment to the therapeutic journey that you know what to expect.

Strategies for Enhancing Connection Outside Therapy
“What strategies do you recommend for couples to enhance their connection outside of therapy sessions?” A therapist who offers practical tools, exercises and resources for couples to work on between sessions demonstrates a proactive approach to therapy. This can help accelerate progress by encouraging partners to actively engage outside the therapeutic setting.

Approach to Individual Sessions
“Do you conduct individual sessions with partners?” Generally, therapy should involve both partners, with individual sessions reserved for specific assessment purposes. This approach reflects the therapist’s commitment to treating the relationship as the central client. Further, you probably don’t have the right therapist for you if they don’t have a clear policy about how to treat informations shared during individual sessions!

Ensuring Impartiality
“How do you maintain impartiality in your sessions?” Asking this question probes the therapist’s strategy for navigating complex couple dynamics. Thereby, ensuring they view the relationship as an interconnected system. I think it’s so important to feel confident about a prospective therapist’s answer to this question. This is because the experience of therapist bias toward one partner is a primary reason clients cite for therapy “failing.”

Summary: Finding the Right Therapist for You

Selecting the right couple therapist is a process. Importantly, one that requires careful consideration and inquiry. The list of questions provided herein are designed to provide meaningful insights. Specifically, insights into a therapist’s approach, philosophy, and their suitability for navigating the complexities of your relationship. We invite your questions and offer a no-cost, confidential consultation.

I hope this approach helps ensure you get couple counseling underway with the right therapist. Ideally, you’ll be with a compassionate, well-trained professional who provides a clear vision of process and goals. And of course, one who can effectively support and guide you through the challenges and opportunities of strengthening your relationship.

Cornelius Sheehan, LCSW, seated. Therapist in Reno for Relationship counseling

“Harmony in Holiday Traditions”: Crafting Our Unique Traditions

happy couple doing EFT relationship counseling in Reno

As the festive season approaches, couples often find themselves navigating the complexities of blending traditions, managing expectations, and seeking meaningful ways to celebrate together. As an experienced Emotionally Focused Therapist, I learn so much about what works through what clients have shared the profound impact that creating and nurturing unique holiday traditions for couples can have on relationships.

The Significance of Shared Rituals in Relationships

Building Emotional Bonds through Traditions

Shared rituals and traditions are more than just ceremonial acts; they are the threads that weave the tapestry of our relationships. In the framework of attachment theory, these rituals act as anchors, providing emotional safety and a sense of belonging. Whether it’s cooking a special meal together or taking a yearly holiday photo, these acts create a shared narrative, a story uniquely yours.

Blending Cultural and Personal Values

In my practice, I’ve observed couples who successfully blend elements from their individual backgrounds, forming traditions that are rich in cultural and personal significance. For instance, a couple I worked with combined their Mexican and Polish heritages to create a ‘Pierogi and Tamales’ night every Christmas Eve, a beautiful fusion that honors both their backgrounds.

Steps to Creating Your Unique Holiday Traditions

Initiate Open and Honest Communication

Start by having open discussions about what the holidays mean to each of you. What are your fondest memories? What traditions do you hold dear? This conversation is not just about planning; it’s about understanding each other’s emotional landscape.

Collaborative Planning: Crafting Holiday Traditions for Couples, Together

Once you have shared your individual holiday desires and expectations, it’s time to co-create. Remember, the goal is not to replicate traditions exactly as they were, but to blend them into something that is uniquely ‘us’. For example, if one partner enjoys outdoor activities while the other prefers cozy indoor settings, you could plan a day that includes a morning hike followed by an evening by the fireplace.

Embracing Inclusivity and Mutual Respect

It’s vital to approach this process with a spirit of inclusivity and respect. Acknowledge that some traditions might need to be adapted or even set aside to create space for new ones. This doesn’t mean losing your identity; it’s about creating a shared identity as a couple.

Examples of Unique Celebration Rituals

Culinary Adventures: More Than Just Food

Cooking together is a fantastic way to bond. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the act of creation and sharing. Try incorporating dishes from each other’s childhoods into your holiday meals, or create a new dish together that becomes your annual special.

Crafting Memories: Beyond the Photo Album

Consider activities that allow you to create tangible memories. Here’s an idea I loved and learned from a couple I worked with recently: write letters to each other every New Year’s Eve and read them the following year. This ritual has become a cherished part of their holiday experience, offering a moment of reflection and connection. Another couple described an annual get-together with friends where they played favorite games they had, themselves received as childhood holiday gifts. It gets, they say, “pretty silly and becomes incredibly bonding and memorable.” I loved this one.

Mindfulness and Reflection: Deepening Your Emotional Connection

Mindfulness practices can be a wonderful addition to your holiday traditions. Something as simple as lighting a candle every night of the holiday season and sharing what you’re grateful for can deepen your connection and bring a sense of peace and reflection to your home.

Navigating Challenges in Creating Traditions

Managing Differences and Compromises

It’s natural to encounter differences in preferences and traditions. The key is to approach these differences with curiosity and compassion. Compromise does not mean giving up what’s important to you; it’s about finding balance and mutual satisfaction.

Adapting to Life’s Changes

Traditions, like relationships, need to evolve. Be open to adjusting your rituals as your relationship and life circumstances change. What works one year may not the next, and that’s okay. It’s the flexibility and willingness to grow together that strengthens your bond.

Read Pieces from Relationship Strengthening Texts and Articles

You’ll find additional information throughout the Blog posts on and pages of this website. Also, I recommend the works of Dr. Sue Johnson and of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. These brilliant authors offer inspiring and fortifying insights. Holding onto just a couple of ideas to focus on as the New Year starts can be a wonderful ritual.

Sustaining and Growing Your Traditions

Keeping Traditions Alive and Evolving

Revisit and reflect on your traditions annually. What worked well? What might you want to change? This ongoing dialogue ensures that your traditions remain meaningful and aligned with your current lives.

Extending Traditions to the Community

Some holiday traditions for couples can be extended to friends and family, strengthening your sense of community. Hosting a special holiday gathering or organizing a group activity can create shared joy and memories beyond your couplehood.

Year-Round Practices for a Lasting Bond

Finally, consider how the essence of these traditions can be integrated into your daily lives. This might mean setting aside time for regular check-ins or creating small daily rituals that reinforce your connection.


Crafting holiday traditions for couples is a journey of discovery, creativity, and deepening love. It’s about building something that is uniquely yours, a celebration that reflects who you are as a couple and what you aspire to be. As you embark on this journey, remember that the process itself is as important as the traditions you create. It’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect in ways that are profound and lasting.

In this festive season and beyond, I encourage you to embrace the joy of creating and evolving your holiday traditions. May they bring you closer, fill your home with love, and create a tapestry of memories that you’ll cherish for years to come.

If you found this article helpful and would like to explore more about emotionally focused therapy or relationship strengthening, feel free to reach out for a consultation. Wishing you a season filled with joy, connection, and meaningful traditions.

“Cooling the Flames: De-escalating Arguments in Love”

De-escalating Arguments in Love, cooling the flames of couple conflict
handling couple conflict

Strategies for Handling Arguments in Relationship


As an experienced, certified Emotionally Focused Therapist (EFT) couple therapist, I’ve spent years helping couples navigate the complex tides of their relationships. I’ve realized that one of the most common challenges couples face is handling relationship conflict, i.e. managing and de-escalating the arguments we all experience. In what follows, I want to share with you some insights and strategies from my clinical world that can help turn heated arguments into opportunities for deeper connection and understanding.

Understanding Conflict Through an EFT Lens

The EFT Perspective on Relationship Conflicts

In Emotionally Focused Therapy, we see conflicts not just as clashes of words or wills, but as expressions of deeper emotional needs and fears. Often, what starts as a minor disagreement can quickly escalate into a full-blown argument when underlying attachment needs are not met.

I recall a couple, let’s call them Gretchen and Walt, who came to me struggling with frequent, intense arguments in areas ranging from finance and parenting to which grandparents’ house they would visit first over the holidays. Through EFT, they learned that their conflicts weren’t really about the chores or the finances; they were about seeking emotional safety and connection. Gretchen and Walt each wanted to know they were taken in by one another.

Emotional Awareness and Regulation

The first step in de-escalating arguments is understanding and regulating your own emotions. It’s about recognizing the signs of emotional escalation within yourself. This awareness creates a pause, allowing you to choose a more constructive response.

For instance, when Gretchen felt unheard, she learned to express her feelings without blaming Walt, saying things like, “I feel worried and a bit afraid when we don’t talk about our finances.” This shift in communication made a huge difference.

Communicating Effectively in the Heat of the Moment

Communication Techniques for De-escalation

Effective communication during an argument is key. In EFT, we focus on expressing underlying emotions and needs without attacking the other person.

A technique colleagues and I often recommend is the ‘softened start-up’. Instead of beginning a conversation with criticism or contempt, start with a statement that opens the door for understanding. For example, “I feel stressed about our schedule and need to talk about it,” is more likely to elicit a positive response than, “You never make time for us.” Granted, this can be hard to do when you lack confidence (haven’t had the experience) that your partner will be receptive to your softened message. A well-trained EFT therapist will help you understand and overcome this block to softened messages.

Step-by-Step Guide to De-escalating an Argument

Here’s a simple guide to follow when you feel an argument escalating:

  1. Pause and Breathe: Take a moment to breathe and step back from the heat of the moment.
  2. Reflect on Your Feelings: Ask yourself what you’re really feeling and why.
  3. Communicate Your Emotional Needs: Share these feelings with your partner in a non-confrontational way.

Creating the Right Environment for Healthy Conflicts

Timing and Environment Considerations

The setting in which you address conflicts is crucial. Avoid starting difficult conversations when either of you is tired, stressed, or distracted. Choose a time and place where you both feel comfortable and are less likely to be interrupted.

Foundations for Resilient Relationships

Building Healthy Conflict Resolution Foundations

To build a relationship that withstands the storms of conflict, regular emotional check-ins are vital. These create a space for discussing feelings and needs outside of heated arguments. Understanding each other’s conflict styles and attachment needs is also crucial.

In my practice, I’ve seen couples transform their relationships by simply dedicating time each week to discuss their feelings and needs calmly and openly.

When to Seek Professional Help

When to Seek EFT Counseling

Recognizing when you need professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If arguments are becoming frequent and more intense, or if you find yourselves stuck in the same patterns, it might be time to seek EFT counseling. This can provide a safe space to explore deeper emotional issues and learn effective strategies for managing conflicts.

The Journey of Change

Sustaining Change with EFT Principles

Implementing these strategies is a journey, not a one-time event. It requires patience, practice, and a willingness to be vulnerable. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small, and be patient with setbacks.


In conclusion, remember that every argument presents an opportunity for growth and deeper connection. By applying these strategies, you can turn conflicts into catalysts for strengthening your bond.

Keep in mind that love is not just about agreeing on everything; it’s about navigating disagreements in a way that enriches your relationship. Handling arguments in relationship is a path to deeper connection.

If my colleagues and I can help you on the path of connection that grows and flourishes, reach out to us for a free consultation. 775-235-2205

Additional Resources and Support

For those interested in exploring more about Emotionally Focused Therapy and relationship enhancement, there are numerous resources available. Books such as “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson, and websites like the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) offer valuable insights. Additionally, I’ll be hosting a series of workshops and webinars in the coming months, focusing on deepening emotional connections in relationships.