Distress at a Glance
Once upon a time your relationship was a source of immense satisfaction; you looked forward to seeing your partner, hearing about their day, and making plans with one another. When you had a stressful day or you were trying to work through a personal struggle, you may have turned to your partner before confiding in anyone else. If you were lucky, your partner knew your passions, supported your dreams, and encouraged you to grow.
In any story, there are ups and downs and relationships are no different. Perhaps you’re considering couples counseling because you and your partner have gradually been drifting apart. It may seem like the focus of your relationship is on managing tasks of daily living, which may be especially true if you and your partner are parents. Your relationship may have moved from a state of disconnection to one of chronic frustration. It may seem like everything turns into a fight, and you and your partner walk away feeling misunderstood, hurt, and further apart than ever.
While it can be painful to acknowledge that the story of your relationship has become one of disconnection, perhaps you’re seeking support around a more abrupt plot twist. Your relationship may be reeling from the aftermath of an affair, you or your partner may have developed a problem with substances or another significant mental health concern. Perhaps one or both of you are unexpectedly questioning your values, life goals, and what it means to be in a long term relationship. Changes such as these can cause pain beyond the dull ache of disconnection. You may feel shocked, angry, confused, depressed, and anxious about the future. If this is where you find yourself, you may have mixed feelings about working on your relationship or little hope that you can feel connected with one another again. If the emotions you and your partner are experiencing are intense and all-consuming, reaching out for support can be the first step toward a more peaceful existence, which is something you both deserve.
A More Fulfilling Relationship
Imagine sitting with your partner, both in and outside of therapy, and being able to express your core thoughts, feelings, and needs directly, calmly - even lovingly. Likewise, imagine being able to listen to your partner with an open heart and mind. Imagine responding to one another with curiosity and compassion as opposed to defensiveness and fear. Imagine your ability to listen to and express yourselves more compassionately decreases friction in your daily lives and allows you to find compromises for the issues that routinely cause you distress. Imagine feeling a greater sense of calm and contentment in your lives with one another.
Imagine starting a new chapter with your partner, one where the newfound calmness within your relationship allows you to see one another more fully. Imagine remembering yourself and your partner as you once were and as you are now - adults who are always evolving and choose to do so together. Imagine spending time with your partner the way you used to - looking into their eyes, knowing more about their daily stressors and joys, and having a deeper understanding of their values and dreams. Imagine feeling passion within your relationship, desiring one another and looking forward to seeing one another at the end of the day. Imagine planning time for just the two of you. Imagine remembering what was and feeling excited for what’s to come.
Reasons to be Hopeful
Couples Therapy Helps
Couples therapy has helped countless couples reconnect with one another, learn to communicate more effectively, reignite passion within their relationship, and cultivate a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.
It Benefits All Relationships
While couples therapy doesn't always result in partners staying together, the experience of participating in the process increases the chances of an amicable ending should you and your partner separate. This is no small matter; amicable endings have far-reaching benefits for the couple as well as their children, family members, and friends.
Your Future Is Waiting
Regardless of how your relationship unfolds, participating in couples therapy can help you develop a better understanding of yourself, what you want from a relationship, and how to maintain the type of connection you desire.
Dr. Casey is a licensed psychologist with years experience treating individuals, couples, and their families. She has completed all three levels of advanced training on the Gottman Method, one of five validated treatments for couples therapy. Dr. Casey specializes in the assessment and treatment of substance use disorders and she is uniquely suited to help couples who are distressed by one or both partners' relationship with drugs or alcohol. Dr. Casey uses a balanced approach when working with couples; she helps partners develop concrete skills to use in and outside of session while also helping partners to develop a richer understanding of themselves and the deeper issues within their relationship.
Interpersonally, Dr. Casey is open-minded, nonjudgmental, and warm. She is also compassionately direct when needed. She truly believes that the most significant contributor to a person’s mental health is the quality of their relationships, and she particularly enjoys helping couples strengthen their bond and find ways to grow alongside one another.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should we expect?
The initial phase of couples therapy begins with a three part assessment. While it’s tempting to bypass this process and “just get started” on the work of therapy, it’s important for Dr. Casey to understand the history of your relationship, each person’s perspective on the issues at hand, and how each of you score on key markers of relational satisfaction. During the first meeting, Dr. Casey will meet with you and your partner for a little over an hour to learn about the history of your relationships and how you’ve navigated important changes as a couple. Following the initial meeting, each partner will be emailed a questionnaire to assess their degree of relational satisfaction. After meeting with you as a couple, Dr. Casey will schedule 45 minute individual sessions with each of you to better understand your family of origin, personal mental health concerns, and what you hope to gain from therapy. In the final assessment, Dr. Casey will meet with you and your partner to review your online assessments, provide recommendations, and help you clarify your goals.
Following the assessment process, a course of well-informed therapy can begin. In the early stages you and your partner will be scheduled for 90 minute sessions. As you begin making progress, your sessions may decrease to 60 or 75 minutes. In the early stage of therapy, it’s ideal for you and your partner to schedule sessions more frequently, as this allows you to build momentum without lengthy stretches of time between sessions.
A typical session will involve you and your partner discussing a recent issue or source of contention and talking with one another about your thoughts and feelings. Dr. Casey wants you and your partner to feel empowered to work on your relationship outside of the therapy, so she encourages you to talk directly with one another in session. You may worry that this will lead to conflict in therapy, and if so, you’re correct. That’s intentional because we learn best when we can apply new skills in the moment as opposed to imagining how we’ll use them in the future. By practicing new skills in session, you and your partner are in a better position to implement them in your daily lives, which is an important goal of couples therapy.
During sessions, while you and your partner discuss the most recent or distressing issues within your relationship, Dr. Casey listens for ways to help you increase friendship and affection for one another, decrease conflict, and work toward increasing the pleasure, joy, and shared meaning you derive from your relationship. At the end of each session, Dr. Casey will provide guidance about ways to work on your relationship before your next scheduled appointment.
An important part of the Gottman Method is periodically recording how you and your partner talk with one another in session and then replaying these videos to help you learn from your interactions (ideally with compassion and a healthy sense of humor). You and your partner can rest easy knowing that recordings are deleted in session after they’ve been reviewed. You and your partner are encouraged to talk with Dr. Casey if you have concerns about this important (but ultimately not required) component of couples therapy.
We’ve been arguing about the same thing for years. How can couples therapy help us solve our differences?
Couples therapy can likely help you and your partner communicate more effectively - listen more deeply, express yourselves with empathy, and respond with less defensiveness. These skills can help you better understand recurring sources of stress and identify compromises for solvable problems. It’s wonderful when that happens.
That being said, couples therapy cannot help you and your partner solve all of your differences. This is because the majority of concerns couples face represent deeper values, dreams, and desires within each individual. For example, a couple may argue more frequently after having children. On the surface it may appear that they’re arguing about the logistics of childcare; however, beneath the surface they may be bumping up against one another’s core values, hopes, and dreams related to parenthood and family life.
Ultimately, the goal of couples therapy isn’t to get your partner to change their values, hopes, and dreams. A more realistic and respectful goal is to better understand one another and increase your ability to work more effectively around core issues. Ideally couples therapy contributes to an appreciation of and regard for one another’s most sacred differences.
Loving, too, is good - because love is hard. For one person to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult thing we are asked to do, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is mere preparation.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke,
Letters to a Young Poet