Couples Counseling: Building bridges
Have you ever seen what goes into building a bridge? Sure, it’s pretty simple to use the bridge once it’s built, but building a safe, stable bridge that you can trust takes serious planning and work to build. You’ve got to trust that connecting each side of the river won’t lead to disaster! Couples counseling is about building and repairing bridges (connections) between people. It is important to understand that the work involved in engineering and building the bridge is NOT representative of the effort involved in using the bridge once it is complete. The skills you learn are designed to be easy to use once you have built and repaired those connections. Of course, coming back in for periodic maintenance is always welcome.
An effective Marriage Counselor helps you talk to each other during couples sessions. When you speak to one another during sessions, rather than mainly talking to the couples counselor, you are practicing the skills that will help you not need the therapist in the future.
In our couples counseling sessions in Austin, TX, we build skills that improve communication, deepen connection, and rekindle the joy and excitement that brought the two of you together. Using the empirically validated Gottman Method, our work will focus on tuning up your relationship in areas that are keeping you from feeling understood and getting in the way of managing conflict effectively. The thorough online assessment will generate a detailed sixty page report identifying specific areas of improvement.
People that come in for premarital counseling in Austin, TX frequently tell me that had they known the skills and facts about what made healthy marriages work they would have done things very differently. Located in the West Lake Hills neighborhood of Austin, Gate Healing, PLLC gives you the opportunity to explore those very facts and skills that can help you prepare for a lifetime of love and joy with your partner. You’ll learn about effective communication, how each of your personalities deal with stress and conflict, and receive tips on how to manage conflict effectively.
- Does it feel like the spark has gone?
- Do you feel like your partner is more of a roommate?
- Have you begun to feel like it’s not even worth arguing anymore because nothing gets better?
- Do you feel like your partner just doesn’t understand you? Or that they keep trying to cram their agenda down your throat?
- Have you been dealing with major changes in your roles due to kids, job change or moving?
Perhaps you’ve noticed a pattern of disagreements escalating into full-blown fights. Or maybe you’ve seen a disturbing trend of not attending to each other’s attempts to talk, or even to be romantic. When these types of dynamics happen occasionally, there is usually no need for concern unless other unhealthy patterns are present. But when you realize a pattern has emerged, it is time to get help.
The Gottman Method & how it improves communication
With concepts like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which signify major dysfunction in a relationship, and Bids/Turns, which address communication dynamics, their straightforward approach is intuitive and extremely effective. The Gottman Method of Couples Therapy is not just intuitive though, the empirical research supports the methodology and the success rates are astounding. Through the use of assessments, exercises, and homework, the Gottman Method helps couples learn how to communicate better, manage conflict more effectively, and build intimacy that may have been missing for many years.
Conflict in any relationship is perfectly normal, and even healthy when managed effectively through dialogue. We learn about ourselves and our partners when we move through conflict, and by successfully managing it, we actually build trust in our relationships’ ability to withstand conflict.
The Four Horsemen
There are some easy to recognize patterns that, when present, can reliably predict the downfall of a relationship. To be clear, we all engage in each of these at times; it is when these become consistent patterns of dealing with conflict that they become predictive of relationship decline. They are The Four Horsemen:
- Criticism – Character assassination. Judging the person, not the behavior
- Defensiveness – An angry denial or a charged deflection of responsibility; even making excuses
- Contempt – Arguing with disgust and moral superiority
- Stonewalling – Glazing over. When a person is physically present, but “checked out.” Typically looking down with a blank expression
The antidotes to the Four Horsemen are an important part of our work. I want you to leave couples therapy with a skill set, a complete toolbox that has the skills you need to work through conflict without resorting to the Horsemen . . . and when they do show up from time to time, I want you to have the skills to neutralize them. We will discuss how to do this in detail and I will give you materials that will help you remember these skills and integrate them into your daily routines (this helps prevent the Horsemen).
Gate Healing, PLLC marriage counseling focuses on effective communication by teaching people to:
- Listen effectively
- Speak clearly
- Focus on connecting with one another
- Find common ground
- Understand the other perspective
- Leverage humor
- Accept influence from partner/spouse
- Self-soothe and partner/spouse soothe
Couples Counseling FAQ’s
What if my partner doesn’t want to come in for marriage counseling?
While it’s not uncommon for one partner to feel that a couples counselor may take sides and gang up on them, a high-quality couples therapist is careful to understand both perspectives and will help both sides feel heard and understood. In the Gottman Method, how this is done provides a great model for both people to follow when helping their partner feel respected and understood.
I am happy to speak with each of you individually over the phone before deciding to come in so that each of you can feel good about your decision to see me. I have even had folks call me with a fake name so that they can ask plenty of questions freely. This is just fine, please feel free to ask all the questions you like.
A relationship is a contract, whether it’s a legal marriage contract, civil marriage arrangement, same-sex marriage, or any other type of partnership, these are sacred and deserve to be saved. This commitment from both of you will help your work be more effective in the institution of marriage. Vows to each other don’t end when you simply state them at your wedding, make sure the rights and obligations you have made to each other are kept long after the wedding ceremony has long since passed.
What if things get heated in marriage counseling?
While couples counseling may uncover difficult issues that you may not have seen yet, it also provides a very structured and safe environment to explore these dynamics in ways that you may have never experienced before; ways that are far more effective and that actually build trust and admiration for each other. Remember, conflict is NOT correlated with divorce. Not being able to talk about it effectively is correlated with divorce though. By coming in, you are vastly improving the chances that your relationship will thrive and avoiding divorce, keeping children together, and staying a happily married couple.
How long will it take for marriage counseling to help?
Because I use the Gottman Method Assessment, we save a great deal of time getting down to business. Most couples walk out of the 1st or second session feeling a great deal of relief and hope. Because the goal is improving connection and communication, the idea of “getting better” is not so narrow as “fixing things.” Instead, the idea is that your ability to communicate builds resiliency and trust in your ability to withstand inevitable challenges. Don’t shred that marriage license, make sure both you and your spouse are putting in the effort to ensure that you and the person you married stay as a married couple.
Does it matter where we got married?
Whether you were married in the United States, Canada, or wherever your marriage ceremony took place, this does not affect the process of marriage & couples counseling in Austin TX. Marriage licenses are simply legal documents, similar to a birth certificate, passport, or green card, where the only thing that matters is the connection between you and your spouse, and the fact that you are trying to fix issues that have arisen in your relationship.
Gottman Institute – Jonathan was trained by the Clinical Director of the Gottman Institute. Learn more about the Gottman Method here
The Mayo Clinic – Information regarding couples counseling from the world-renown Mayo Clinic
Psychology Today – Articles about couples counseling on one of the most trusted resources on self-help
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.