Couples Therapy in Berkeley and Online
Do We Need Couples Therapy?
Partners decide to start couples therapy for many reasons. The issues that bring you in search of support are uniquely yours.
There is one theme shared by all couples who have worked with me:
“When we try to talk about it, our communication breaks down and it feels more like we are adversaries than solving problems as a team.”
Does your communication feel stuck? Are you feeling misunderstood or unseen by your partner?
Are you feeling frustrated or exhausted by disagreements that never seem to find a resolution? Or, maybe, you find that every disagreement evolves into the same polarized conflict?
Is your relationship experiencing a big transition – engagement, marriage, children, relocation – and these changes are creating new stress that is testing your bond together?
Do you or your partner struggle with mental or physical health conditions that make it difficult to meet each other's needs consistently?
Are you craving more intimacy and sex with your partner, and want to rekindle the fire that you remember from the beginning of your relationship?
Perhaps you are questioning whether all your differences – emotional needs, values, parenting styles, goals, visions for the future, etc. – are insurmountable. Do you worry you and your partner are incompatible?
Has your relationship experienced a specific trauma? Infidelity? Separation? A breach of trust? Perhaps issues of trust and safety are now making it difficult to enjoy each other and repair your connection.
Any of these difficulties are resolvable. I have seen it happen, both as a therapist and in my own life.
Your willingness to approach these issues with good intention and care is the most important factor. The fact that you are here says a lot already.
Partners come to couples therapy when their attempts to resolve regular differences feel blocked and out of their control.
Can Couples Therapy Really Work?
Couples therapy is a dynamic process that focuses on all the details of your relationship. What do you do? What do you say? How do you feel? How does your partner respond to you? What story do you tell yourself about how your relationship dynamic unfolds?
Even if you are not feeling desperate for change, couples therapy can be a valuable process. There is a big difference between conversations about “how we are doing together in this relationship”, versus “how is our relationship doing? And why?”
Long-term relationships require flexibility. People change! We all grow into different versions of ourselves than we were when we first met our partner. Our goals shift. Our needs change. Families grow.
Successful relationships are those that can adapt to change and maintain the bond that connected them in the first place. Relationships fail when normal differences or predictable changes create attachment injuries that are not repaired.
How Couples Therapy Can Help
More than anything, couples therapy provides a space to talk about your relationship. Growing in a relationship requires talking about how we relate together. Talking about ”how we talk” is not a common practice. These conversations do not often happen organically.
So often the parts of our inner experience that matter the most – those parts that make emotions intense – do not make it into the conversation!
Although these parts do not enter conversations explicitly, you and your partner both carry beliefs about the way communication happens between you. These beliefs play a part in your relationship pattern implicitly.
Couples therapy is a place where we make the implicit explicit.
Together, our work is to notice all the details, recognize them in the moment, and include them in the communication between you and your partner.
Over time, our work together will help you gain:
More understanding of your partner
A deeper understanding of yourself
Insight about how your relationship pattern unfolds
Awareness of how you can change the way you and your partner relate to each other
What I Can Offer
Relationship conversations carry a lot of energy. They evoke intense feelings in both of you. And why shouldn’t they? We’re talking about the most important relationship in your life!
The emotional charge of these conversations can cause them to speed up and quickly feel out of control.
My first responsibility as your couple’s therapist is to make our space feel safe and for our conversations to move slowly. When the energy starts to rise, I will hit the pause button and invite you both in to reflect on what is happening for each of you as we talk:
What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What do you imagine your partner is thinking or feeling? What does this conversation represent about you or your relationship?
I will bring curiosity about the interpretations and emotions lying underneath the communication happening on the surface and help both of you connect deeper into your inner experience.
My goal is to help you create a shared narrative of your relationship.
When we can fully understand what each of you is experiencing individually within your relationship pattern, we can understand how these two experiences reinforce one another. Most importantly, we can notice opportunities for change.
What You Can Expect
If you have never been to therapy before, trying something new and unfamiliar may be intimidating. Even if you have already experienced therapy yourself, it might be hard to imagine sharing this space with your partner in the room.
I work with couples primarily using an evidence-based therapy model called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). This approach emphasizes human attachment as a pivotal factor in understanding the way adult partners relate to one another. EFT focuses on strengthening the emotional bond between partners by uniting against the negative patterns they get stuck in.
In our initial sessions, our focus will be on understanding your relationship patterns. What are the triggers that come between you? What do you each do? What do you say? How do you feel? How have these patterns changed over time? These sessions will also explore details of each of your relationship histories prior to your current relationship.
Together, we will construct a cohesive map of how your relationship pattern unfolds. We will also uncover emotions and attachment needs that underly this pattern, which are not communicated with a clear signal.
From there, our sessions will center around you and your partner communicating these feelings and needs to one another. You will practice sharing these vulnerable parts of yourselves with your partner.
Modern research on neuroplasticity has shown that these “corrective experiences” – where we experience responsive, loving acceptance from our partner – have the capability of rewiring our brain’s neural pathways. In short, these interactions actually change the structure of our brains!
While we will certainly encounter specific tools or methods to improve communication along the way. The real “tool” of EFT is learning to understand your partner and your relationship more deeply. When we feel understood and accepted, it fosters the necessary security and trust within your relationship to stay connected through moments of difference or upset.
Finding The Right Fit
This is an important decision.
There are many choices out there. Different therapists. Many models of therapy. Varying costs. However, the most important factor you should be considering when starting couple’s therapy is finding the right fit.
BOTH of you should feel comfortable with the person you choose to work with.
If you are feeling unsure or confused about finding the “right fit” with a therapist, I would be happy to support you in this decision process. Book a free 15-minute consultation phone call with me and we can talk through all the details. I want to support you and your partner to find the support you are looking for, whether be in my office or elsewhere.