Session Length: 50 minutes
(by appointment only –– no drop-ins)
Location: Downtown or Northwest Austin
Scheduling & Availability: I have specific hours available at each location for ongoing, weekly, individual therapy. Contact me with preferred days and times, and I will get back to you ASAP with my current availability.
Timeframe: Couple therapy is not time-limited and usually ends when a couple has made significant progress toward their self-defined goals. When I schedule your initial session, I reserve your weekly appointment time indefinitely. At the end of each session, we will confirm your next appointment.
Description: In couple therapy, partners can explore current problems, enhance communication, and rebuild lost connections with the support and guidance of an objective and impartial therapist. Couple therapy is an opportunity to address difficult problems in a more effective and systematic way. While many come to couple therapy to reduce the intensity and frequency of negative interactions, couple therapy is a also place to discover ways of promoting positive interaction. Each week, we will explore your struggles, strengths, differences, and similarities, while planning next steps toward a more fulfilling relationship.
Who may benefit: Couples come to therapy for many reasons. Problems with communication can lead to frequent, high-conflict arguments that leave partners feeling disconnected and misunderstood, but that rarely lead to solutions. Partners may find themselves constantly criticizing each other, defending themselves from criticism, or avoiding criticism by shutting down communication. Some relationships lose their spark when couples fall into lackluster routines. Often, even after several years together, couples have difficulty navigating differences in deeply held beliefs, values, and preferences (regarding things like money, parenting, religion, sex, etc.). Unexpected events and crises can put an unbearable strain on a healthy relationship, or can sometimes be the result of longstanding, unaddressed problems. Couple therapy can effectively address a wide array of concerns, ranging from difficulty with in-laws to infidelity, and even separation or divorce.
Ready to start? CLICK HERE. If you want to know more, continue reading.
In couple therapy, you could:
What to Expect
The First Session
Starting therapy can be a source of anxiety. Learning what to expect in couple therapy can help reduce this anxiety. When you first arrive, you will take a seat in the waiting room. If you and your partner haven’t completed new client paperwork (read more about this in the following section), there will be clipboards in the waiting room with my name on them, pens, instructions, and the required forms. At your appointment time, I will come to the waiting room and call the first name of the partner who scheduled the appointment. You will both follow me to the therapy room. I try to follow a client’s lead when it comes to shaking hands or similar gestures, because comfort with such gestures can vary widely from person to person.
When we arrive in the therapy room, I will briefly review your completed forms and ask if you or your partner have any questions about them, especially related to confidentiality. If your forms are incomplete, I can assist you with completing them. After discussing any questions or concerns, it is time to move past formalities and into a discussion of your reasons for coming to therapy.
There can be quite a bit of variation in how couple therapy begins. Sometimes, both partners are eager to come to therapy, for the sake of themselves, each other, and the relationship. But often, one partner believes that the couple’s problems are less urgent, that therapy won’t be helpful, or that problems have gone on long enough and the relationship isn’t salvageable. Though one partner may be experiencing a greater sense of urgency, I may focus on the experience of the other partner first. It is the job of the couple therapist to ensure that both partners feel heard and included. If this is not prioritized, one partner––the one who feels less invested in therapy––may choose to discontinue couple therapy early on, halting progress before it begins.
As I listen, I will ask questions to gain clarity about your stories and the perspectives each partner has on the relationship. I will also observe interactions between you and your partner, looking for both problematic exchanges that might be changed with practice and positive interactions that could be utilized more often. It is likely that I will pause the conversation and offer alternative ways of interacting for you and your partner to try in the moment. From time to time, I may offer brief education relevant to interactions between you and your partner or the specific problems you have discussed in the session.
At some point, I will pause the conversation and share my understanding of the issues presented, and the perspectives each partner has on these issues. I will also invite each partner to make corrections, clarifications, or additions to improve my understanding. At this point, we may begin to identify goals for our work together. Goals can be very specific, like making the division of housework more equitable or increasing the level of physical intimacy in a relationship. They can also be more general, like improving the overall quality of a relationship.
Just as two partners may feel very differently about coming to couple therapy, each partner may have a different view of what they would like to achieve in couple therapy. Because of this, multiple goals may be selected. Or, when goals conflict, our initial task may be to compromise over the purpose of work in couple therapy. For example, if one partner wants to improve to quality of the relationship, while the other simply wants to end the relationship in an amicable way, the goal may be “to develop greater understanding of our relationship and its problems,” rather than improving or ending the relationship. In this case, it is hoped that greater understanding may lead to mutual goals later on. Goals may change as our work together progresses. Though settings goals in couple therapy can be a challenge, discussing goals early on will keep us on track as our work progresses.
Exploring the Relationship
As we explore your relationship, ranging from childhood experiences within each partner’s family of origin to recent events, we will examine how changes in both perspective and behavior can contribute to solving problems and improving your relationship. In addressing the many facets of your relationship, it helps to use a framework for identifying what may be going wrong and, perhaps more importantly, what’s going right. I find that Dr. John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work provides a framework that effectively addresses the negatives in a relationship by accentuating the positives. Gottman’s seven principles, identified through decades of rigorous scientific research, are skills that are commonly observed in couples with long-lasting, fulfilling relationships. Together, we can identify which principles have been assets in your relationship and plan to strengthen others through practice, both in and out of the therapy room. These principles are:
Watch this 7-minute video by OnePercentBetter for an illustrated review of Gottman’s seven principles:
Near the end of a session, it can be useful to summarize our discussion, identify important topics to return to, and formulate ways for you and your partner to apply skills practiced in therapy to interactions outside of therapy. I call this homework (though it’s usually less burdensome than traditional homework). Early in therapy, homework will likely consist of noticing cues to practice a new skill, trying the new skill, and reporting back about what went well and what might have gone wrong. As new skills become more natural and habitual, we will build on this foundation by practicing more challenging skills and addressing more complex problems. This may seem daunting, but it can be surprising how practicing even basic skills can relieve pressure in a relationship, making difficult problems seem less urgent. With each passing week, it is hoped that increasing the level of positivity in your relationship will make your efforts to address the most challenging aspects of your relationship less intimidating and more likely to succeed.
Ending Couple Therapy
Therapy can end in many ways. As with other aspects of couple therapy, meeting the needs of both partners can make ending therapy relatively complex. You and your spouse may have fully or partially achieved your goals for the relationship, prompting a discussion of how to maintain gains and continue progress after therapy. Alternatively, the couple and therapist may identify new goals to address. You may feel that you have reached a plateau in learning and skill-building and want to try out this new version of your relationship without couple therapy, while keeping open the possibility of returning in the future. Sometimes, one partner feels ready to end couple therapy before the other––believing they have reaped its benefits or that the benefits were few––and the other partner may choose to continue therapy individually. There are also times when one or both partners decide to discontinue the relationship. In this case, the goal of therapy shifts to making this division as peaceful as possible while providing emotional support and promoting individual resilience and well-being. Finally, changing circumstances can bring an unexpected end to therapy. Changing schedules or financial resources, unexpected relocation, or changes in your relationship between sessions may make the continuation of couple therapy difficult or impossible. In such cases, we can develop a plan for continuing growth and obtaining support in your new situation.
How to start
If you are interested in scheduling your first couple therapy appointment, call/text me at 512-806-0137 or fill out the form below. I will contact you as soon as possible to answer questions you may have and find an appointment time that works for you. Once we choose an appointment time, I will ask for more detailed contact information and preferences, confirm your appointment, and send you new client paperwork (usually via email). You can print this paperwork and complete it prior to your first session, or arrive 15 minutes early to complete it in the waiting room. If you have more than a few brief questions about couple therapy, we can schedule a free, 15-minute phone consultation for a more in-depth discussion of your concerns. Because of my commitment to confidentiality, I am unable to contact your partner about couple therapy before our initial session, unless they contact me first. I ask that you forward new client paperwork to your partner and encourage them to contact me directly with any questions or concerns about beginning couple therapy.
I sincerely look forward to our work together.
Information Request: Couple Therapy