When first meeting with a family, we ask each member to outline the most important irritations and disappointments that are getting in the way of intimacy and enjoyment of each other. We also ask each to give a picture of the positive aspects of the relationship — those things that seem to work without much effort on anyone’s part. Family members are frequently are surprised by how many parts of their various relationships are working well. With this information in mind, we present the family members with an outline of the approaches we believe could be of benefit, and together we choose a course of action.
We talk openly about which techniques to use and whether they are proving helpful.
We use a wide variety of counseling methods. While we tailor our approach to each family’s needs and we frequently use the following techniques.
• Improving Communication
As a foundation for all subsequent work, we teach families how to communicate with awareness and skill. Good communication creates an atmosphere of respect, opening the way for working on the difficult, unresolved issues in the relationship. We use communication techniques that help families stay on track when facing issues trigger strong emotions. We start with building communication skills, drawing from the work of John Gottman a pioneer in the field.
• Restoring Positivity
Building back the positive aspects of a relationship is as just as important as working on the problems. We help families hone their skills at making each other feel loved, such as using the right love language, and building up goodwill by refilling their “emotional bank account.”
We help families restore their loving connection.
Our work draws from many sources, including Gary Chapman, who wrote a book on love languages, and John Gottman, whose decades of research has shown why relationships succeed or fail.
• Renewing Connection
When a relationship feels like a combat zone, it’s hard to open up and feel connected. We use techniques from Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT), described by Susan Johnson in her book Hold Me Tight, to help couples understand how underlying feelings of insecurity can fuel a negative cycle of arguing and distancing.
• Finding Root Causes
Often, a family’s areas of chronic conflict are related to unfinished business from earlier relationships, including those with their parents. We help families learn how their past may be affecting their present. This work, which stems from Imago Relationship Therapy, is described in the book Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Sometimes, our work uncovers unresolved emotional issues that keep coming up when families discuss their problems. We use EMDR, a well-researched technique, to quickly and effectively resolve past emotional trauma.
We focus on solutions and use a collaborative, team approach.
• Honoring Differences
Over past decades, researchers have identified the many ways in which our differences are hard-wired in our genes. For example, according to John Gray’s book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, it’s important to honor the ways in which men and women are different. We help families learn to make their differences enjoyable rather than destructive.
• Growing as a Person
We believe that working on relationships can lead to emotional and spiritual growth. By striving imbue their relationship with honesty, unconditional love, and forgiveness, people learn to rise above petty quarrels and enjoy deep, lasting intimacy. While we draw from many techniques and traditions, we emphasize a collaborative, team approach to solving problems and building positivity. In other words, after careful assessment, we talk openly in sessions about what to focus on, which techniques to use, and whether they are proving helpful.
If you would like more information on whether we can help your family have a better relationship, feel free to contact us or phone toll free at 866-588-0477 to learn more about our practice and schedule a free half-hour phone consultation with one of our clinicians.