Many people delay couples counseling because they are afraid it will label them as a "bad match," but nothing could be further from the truth. Whether it's about who forgot to put the toothpaste cap back on or our culture's new range of electronic infidelities, the truth is that all couples face conflict. Rather than a reason for embarrassment, these struggles actually are an opportunity to stretch and grow into a deeper relationship, one that is stronger and more intimate than ever before.
You might be surprised to know that in most counseling degree programs, couples therapy training amounts to a few weeks during a wide-ranging family therapy course. As a result, much of the couples work going on out there feels like traditional, individual therapy (for the person designated as "the problem") with a "witness" (the person who dragged the other one into therapy). You can imagine how this arrangment often drives the couple further apart.
Having always had an interest in couples therapy, I chose to build on my counseling studies with an additional, 96-hour training in Imago Relationship therapy that included experiential learning and critique of my actual counseling sessions, followed by ongoing group supervision. I chose Imago because it takes an even-handed approach to the work. At its core, Imago is about making a safe space for a couple to hear and be heard. The process is predictable, calm, and flexible, as it adjusts to whatever topic the couple brings into the space.
In 2014, I added training in the PACT approach (a.k.a. the Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy), with PACT-founder, Stan Tatkin. This method applies our growing knowledge of brain science and attachment theory to the experience of being in an adult, coupled relationship. Teaching moment-by-moment awareness of how our faces, bodies, and tone of voice convey micromessages can help couples learn to read one another and boost connection, which improves communication and problem-solving.
Drawn in by the use of attachment theory in PACT, I began reading about Sue Johnson's Emotionally-Focused Couples therapy and began a deep dive into her model in 2015, including 76 continuing education hours, plus group and individual supervision. Her approach uses attachment theory as a lens for viewing relationship distress and protest patterns, helping couples shift from a place of reactivity to deeper, healing emotional connection. I find that Imago, PACT and EFT build nicely on one another, offering multiple interventions that I am able to taylor to each individual couple.