any couples feel anxious about the idea of premarital counseling and most come at the urging of their parents. Sometimes the hidden worry is, “What if the counselor tells us we shouldn’t get married?” I want to help reassure you that when I work with couples, it is not to decide whether a couple should get married or not. It is to help develop life-long healthy communication strategies. Research states that, “Communication has a fundamental role in marital life and lack of effective communication is a common complaint of married couples attending counseling and treatment centers” (Parhizgar, Esmaelzadeh-Saeieh, Akbari Kamrani, Rahmzadeh & Tehranizadeh, 2017, p. 1). They wait and come when things are much more difficult and have suffered many different attachment wounds.
Here are some benefits my clients have experienced with premarital counseling:
- It can slow couples down when they talk so that each partner feels really heard and listened to.
- It sends a message that our marriage matters, not just the wedding. We understand the gravity of what we are doing and we want to safeguard our future.
- Couples will have developed a relationship with a therapist if they need help later.
- Learning to navigate sharing time during the holidays, communicating with step-families and in-laws. It can be a lot of people and expectations to navigate.
- In some couples, it could lower the risk of their relationship developing distress and possible termination for some.
- What is your communication style? Are you a “pursuer” or “withdrawer”?
- What is your attachment style? Do I have an “anxious attachment style”, “avoidant attachment style” or am I “securely attached”? What’s the difference between all of those things?
- How will my family of origin impact that type of parent (if you want kids) I may be someday?
By exploring potential areas for distress ahead of time, we can put communication strategies in place so that you as a couple will not be as vulnerable for an eruption in your relationship.
Stanley, S. (2001). Making a Case for Premarital Education. Family Relations, 50, 272-280.
aking the decision to begin marriage counseling can feel scary and unsettling. There are many reasons couples decide to start this journey. Issues such as infidelity, constant fighting, or shutting down and withdrawing from each other are some of the most common reasons people may consider reaching out to a therapist. How can a therapeutic relationship help?
- Clients who have experienced infidelity realize that they may want to stay together with their partners, but have no idea how to heal this attachment injury. Many ask, “How can we even talk about this without it blowing up?” A therapist that specializes in working with couples and infidelity can help you navigate those painful feelings and do so in a way that will allow healing to begin. Learning safe ways to communicate and laying down new strategies of sharing your feelings is just the beginning. It is absolutely possible to recover from this experience and go on to have a stronger and healthier relationship.
- I often hear, “We just can’t agree on anything.” or “He/She never listens to me so I just say, ‘whatever’ and walk away.” These are all common issues that start to chip away at many couples. The therapy room is a safe space for you and your partner to develop a slower and more deliberate way of listening and replying. It slows our brain down so that we do not experience “flipping our lids”. It is the definition of what happens when we argue with our partner and can cause our primitive brain to take control (fight, flight, freeze) and we longer have access to our executive brain (control center). Therapy can help you each find a way to stay internally regulated without needing to yell, leave the room or shut down.
- Therapy can also help each client understand how their own coping strategies can hinder safety, intimacy and connection. Do you withdraw to protect yourself? Do you confront your partner by yelling or making threats so you can feel heard and seen? There are many ways we respond when we are hurting and those reactions can create a cycle of pain that are difficult to get out of. I can help you identify the cycle that you have found yourself in and start finding ways to create a new one of peace.
Complex PTSD – (Anxiety, Depression)
What is “complex PTSD”? Peter Walker from “Complex PTSD: From Thriving to Surviving” as having five defining features:
- Emotional flashbacks
- Toxic shame
- An unrelenting inner critic
- Social anxiety
Emotional flashbacks are the most notable characteristic in that a person may have experienced “traumatizing abandonment” which could have occurred during childhood, the loss of a loved one, divorce or estrangement at any point in one’s life. It creates intense emotional flashbacks unlike PTSD which usually includes a visual aspect. These emotional flashbacks can include feelings of “overwhelming fear, shame, alienation, rage, grief and depression”. In turn this will activate the amygdala’s fight, flight or freeze.
Also included in trauma, is toxic shame. This is a feeling of worthlessness and contempt for yourself. Through emotional and/or physical neglect in your early years or in a later relationship over and over, the brain starts to believe it. Shame drives us underground, meaning it isolates us and keeps us from reaching out for comfort and support. Defensiveness is a common reaction to shame.
As a therapist I work at my clients pace to support and help the brain and body integrate these painful experiences. As these losses are processed through different strategies in a safe and supportive relationship, healing can begin. It is possible to live a richer and more full life filled with peace, positive self-esteem and hope.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is one of the best interventions for healing both Complex PTSD and PTSD. My clients often share how their depression and anxiety has eased after processing difficult experiences either recent or in the past. I have also heard that it can feel like five sessions in one because of the insight and ability to work through difficulties is done through the eye movement process. One of the benefits of this is that there is the possibility of shortening the time necessary in therapy to heal. Of course, this depends upon a lot of different factors, but my hope for you is that there is symptom relief and the ability to function in a more healthy way with those in your life in less time. You are completely in control of the experience and we will work together to come up with the target of concern. Please click on the link below to read more.