Marital and Couples Counseling
Over the past 33 years of working with couples at all stages of their relationship I have seen that many couples who come in for communication deficiencies engage in what I call “circular arguing”. Circular reasoning is where one partner brings up an issue (usually when irritated) to get change for and the other partner hears a completely different issue and argues back about that...
"Perceptual Filters" shape what we experience communications through. They are based in our history, the history of a relationship, and personal issues. You may want to tell your partner that you would like some behavior changed and think you correctly communicated that in a non-threatening manner. Based on their filters they may hear your request as a criticism and ardently defend their position and actions, leaving you feel misunderstood and attacked. Good couples counseling assesses individual perceptual filters and assists couples to hear more accurately what their partner is trying to say to them and to be heard more accurately themselves.
Information Processing Styles are often different for partners and present additional problems when communicating, especially on emotionally driven topics. External processors need to get everything out of their head before even they know what they think and feel about a particular subject. They use words as tools to get to the bottom of things, therefore they can start out with emotional words that don't actually accurately represent their perceptions. The summary at the end of their offloading is most important to pay attention to if one wants to understand what they are trying to communicate. Internal processors need to process in their head what they think and feel before communicating. They see words as symbolic, not just tools, with true meaning, therefore they won't talk out loud unless they've had time to process their feelings. They "flood" with too many words because they can't process as quickly as an external processor can offload. It may appear they are not listening if not given enough pause time to think. When they flood they get anxious and that further cuts off their process. Understanding these differences can make communication much more effective for both parties.
When two people are “in love” it is easy to overlook the “red flag”, ultimately intolerable, differences in how people interact and what they expect of their partner long-term. Unfortunately, all too often these things get “unpacked” in the first year or two of a marriage...
As individuals we have needs and expectations, traditions and family goals that may or may not be shared in depth in the dating period. In my work with engaged couples I have found that it is usually these arenas on which conflicts arise. Unspoken individual norms are often assumed as "common sense", when in actuality they are often very different. By identifying these and discussing ahead of time how to combine needs and get on the same page with expectations, couples learn to avoid the typical first few years difficulties in learning to understand and be understood by one another.
Many engaged couples are so driven by strong emotions they overlook "red flag" differences and needs they may not want in and from a life partner. Helping them identify their primary values and needs in relationship can produce difficult, but necessary, conversations that are much more important in a long-term committed relationship. While feelings are important they are less useful for long-term decision-making than shared values and concerns. It takes courage to confront differences but without that a couple sets themselves up for future conflicts and failures.
Depression has become almost epidemic in our culture and many still hold to the stigma of believing it results from inefficient coping skills. In some religious systems it is seen as a lack of trust and faith in a loving God, therefore the sign of spiritual weakness and is condemned by misinformed leadership...
Many people are "medication aversive" and seeing anti-depressant medications as dangerous "crutches" that are unnecessary and a sign of weakness. There are coping mechanisms these clients can use and practice both in and out of sessions, but progress may take a long time with commitment to lifestyle changes most depressed people don't have the emotional energy to consistently perform. Unfortunately these individuals can blame their lack of progress on ineffective treatment and drop out of therapy before there is sufficient recovery. While not all depressed people must use medication to get better, the Best treatment for depression is to correct the biochemistry with medication so there is enough emotional energy to actually Do therapy. This is combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to correct faulty thinking that depression creates and exacerbates, and make behavioral changes so that feelings will follow.
People experience anxiety when the body dumps an excess of adrenaline and cortisol into the system. These naturally occurring chemicals were designed to help us run away from or have the superhuman strength we may need when in extreme danger or addressing it beyond our normal limits...
People often get anxiety and fear mixed up. These are two different human experiences that feel similar but are created and treated with different strategies. Fears are specific and working to overcome irrational fears involves exploring thinking and origins about feared objects or experiences. They are external in focus. Anxiety is a biochemical dysfunction unrelated to specifics and can generalize to many stimuli. Anxiety is best treated with biochemical correction and exposure to previously avoided arenas with coping skills to help them have corrective experiences.
Parenting Styles and Skills vary and are often fluid with societal trends and norms. Most people want to be the best parent and certainly at least as good as if not far surpassing their own upbringing. Most strive to create the environment most likely to foster healthy, responsible, creative, and successful offspring...
People from all walks of life, cultures, belief systems, alternative persuasions, etc. need to feel they are in a non-judgmental safe environment to explore the deep underlying issues that bring them to counseling. Good counselors work within the individual’s orientation and see things from their perspective rather than attempting to bring them to their own...
Christianity by design is counter culture in many respects in this post-christian era. Most who hold to this belief system are most comfortable working with a practitioner who follows their values and understands biblical mandates even better than they do at times...