While couples seek therapy for various reasons, and at various times in their relationships, communication and conflict resolution skills are almost always involved in the therapy. Most of us consciously know that we cannot change our partner, yet often struggle to refocus where we need to… on self-change. The only behavior we can change in a relationship is our own, and the most effective way to improve our relationships is to focus on changing ourselves. Generally, this means reducing emotional reactivity and working to communicate our feelings, needs, and wants in a self-focused, calm manner… much easier said than done!
This is generally a challenge due to our primitive defenses being activated when our primary attachment relationship feels threatened. Notice, I say “feels” not “is” threatened. Because attachment is such a crucial element of couple relationships and therapy, my work is informed by EFT (Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy), a therapeutic approach based upon attachment theory, which was developed by Sue Johnson, Ph.D. Research studies have shown that EFT has a 70-75% recovery rate in 10-12 sessions, and a significant improvement rate of 86-90%. Results have proven to be stable, even under high stress.
Some partners come into therapy ambivalent about staying in the relationship, and yet can still benefit. Couples may choose to use therapy to assist them in healthy “un-coupling,” and/or to continue being cooperative “co-parents” to their children, despite ending their couple relationship.
When partners are motivated and committed to getting their relationship back “on track,” both must be willing and able to identify and “own” their part in the relationship problems and struggles. In couples therapy, partners will be asked to identify their vision for the relationship and for themselves as individuals. It’s pretty hard to create a map if we don’t know where we want to end up.
Additionally, it is crucial that partners committed to “saving” their relationship focus on increasing their positive interactions, not just reducing negative dynamics. This will be a central focus of our work together. It is only through positive attachment that relationships grow and feed both partners.