Couple & Relationships
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Do We Really Need Help?
Developing and maintaining a satisfying couple partnership is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of adulthood. The divorce rate has been falling slightly since 1980, with approximately 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce in 2017 (although there is much debate about the exact number and how to measure the divorce rate). The increase in cohabitation and later first marriages likely contribute to changes in the divorce rate.

The next question is what percentage of married couples are actually happy together? Obviously, there isn't a precise measurement for this, but in general 25-50% of couples who are together report not being happy.

Unhappy Marriages and Partnerships are a Life-Threatening Issue
Being in an unhappy marriage significantly impacts a person's physical and emotional health as well as life expectancy. People in unhappy marriages take longer to heal from simple wounds and illnesses and have higher rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, sleep issues, and obesity. They are more likely to die 11 years sooner than those in happier relationships. Rates of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, are higher in unhappy relationships.

The Not-So-Good News
When researching the effectiveness of couples therapy models, distressed couples are one of the few types of clients we do not need a control group for. Why? Once distressed, couples rarely if ever get better without treatment. In marked contrast, people with depression and anxiety often get better without treatment. Some research has found that the average couple comes to therapy 7 years too late.

The Good News
The good news is that 70% of couples who participate in an evidence-based couples therapy process, such as emotionally focused therapy (EFT) or integrated behavioral couples therapy (IBCT) get better.
My Approach to Working with Couples
Comprehensive Assessment: I begin with a comprehensive assessment that includes an interview with the couple together and each partner separately to ensure they are ready for couples work. I also conduct an assessment of individual and couple functioning to address key relational issues and rule out psychological or physiological issues that may be a significant factor in the couple's distress. Beginning with a comprehensive understanding of the psychological, relational, and physiological factors ensures that treatment is focused on the right issues.
Early Treatment: In the early phase of treatment, I work with the couple to quickly identify the fundamental interactional patterns and perceptions that generate the conflict and/or distress. I educate the couple on the dynamics of relationships to reduce self- and other-blame and increase compassion and understanding. I draw primarily from EFT and IBCT in my couples work.
Shifting the Negative Patterns and Re-establishing Safety: Once we have identified the communication and behavioral patterns that need to shift, we work in-session to fundamentally shift these so that couples can change how they communicate and behave outside of session as well. Most couples are able to achieve this within 6-12 sessions.
Long-term Relational Wellness: Finally, I work with couples to develop well-established habits, routines, and communication patterns that will enable them to handle the next stressor life throws at them.
Recommended Readings
These books should be required reading for anyone wanting a committed romantic relationship and are essential single and coupled adults. Most couples find that reading evidence-based books about the science of couple relationships significantly helps them develop the right focus to resolve their issues.
Written by the developer of one of the only two evidence-based treatments for distressed couples, Hold Me Tight provides an outstanding roadmap for maintaining a health relationship. The first three chapters on adult attachment in romantic relationships should be required reading for everyone who turns 18 years of age. Sue Johnson clearly outlines the underlying emotional and survival role intimate relationships play in our lives and uses this explain why we can behave so badly once committed. She then outlines seven conversations she recommends couples should have to create an emotionally safe relationship for years to come. This book is essential for anyone wanting a stable, long-term relationship.
Written by the developer of one of the only two evidence-based treatments for distressed couples (Sue Johnson’s was the other), Reconcilable Differences is the leading cognitive-behavioral approach to helping couples build long-term, satisfying relationships. The book helps partners to examine their differences and find new ways to understand each other, communicate better, and solve problems effectively. This is another essential read for anyone wanting to improve the quality of their current or future relationships.
Written by a leading relationship researcher, The Seven Principles that Make a Marriage Work provides anyone in a committed relationship with research-based recommendations for what one should focus on to have a successful relationship. Whether beginning a new relationship, in a stable one, or between relationships, this book is a classic for understanding the essential behaviors and attitudes needed to succeed while also correcting many myths about committed relationships.