If you are reading this, you probably know the distress brought on by relationship difficulties. These difficulties are felt in every area of our lives. Divorce rates indicate the growing necessity of effective, high quality couple therapy. Knowing how to find the right couple’s therapist near you can be difficult. A relatively small number of therapists you might contact have undergone proper training in the art of couple therapy. Applying techniques learned for individual therapy to the complexities of a couple’s dynamics can fall far short of what a relationship needs.
Starting couple’s therapy is a significant step towards improving your relationship. So, finding the right therapist for you and your partner is crucial. You might think of this discovery process as the first phase of therapy: the evaluation phase. You want confidence that the therapist’s expertise aligns with your specific needs. Below, I’ve shared a list of what experience has taught me are some of the most important questions to consider asking a therapist you’re considering working with.
Here is a checklist of questions you might ask a potential couple therapist to find out if they’re right for you:
Evaluating Experience and Consultation
Experience and Professional Engagement
“Approximately what percentage of your recent practice is dedicated to working with couples?” And, “do you have a regular consultation process wherein you discuss your work?” These questions aims to assess the therapist’s dedication to couples therapy
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.
Understanding Therapeutic Approaches
“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.
Assessing Specialized Training
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.
What Will Therapy Look Like?
This might be the most important question about what to expect from therapy: “What are the Contraindications to Couple Therapy?” A prospective therapist should be able to describes situations or conditions where 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.
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, including 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 and exercises for couples to work on between sessions demonstrates a proactive approach to therapy. This can help accelerate progress by encouraging partners to actively engage in their relationship improvement outside the therapeutic setting.
Communication Skills in Therapy
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 trust that a partner is available and responsive. 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.
Individual Sessions and Therapy Dynamics
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.
“How do you maintain impartiality in your sessions?” Asking this question probes the therapist’s strategy for navigating complex couple dynamics, 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.”
Emphasizing the Emotional Bond
Focus on Emotional Connection vs. 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. Dr. Sue Johnson’s insight, “about the bond, not a bargain,” poignantly captures the essence of couple therapy.
Summary: Finding the Right Therapist for You
Selecting the right couple therapist is a nuanced process that requires careful consideration and detailed questions. These inquiries are designed to provide deep 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, aiding you in the journey of finding the right therapist for you and your partner. This thoughtful approach ensures that you embark on therapy with a professional who can truly support and guide you through the challenges and opportunities of strengthening your relationship.
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.
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:
- Pause and Breathe: Take a moment to breathe and step back from the heat of the moment.
- Reflect on Your Feelings: Ask yourself what you’re really feeling and why.
- 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.
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.