When we first form a connection with the person we hope to spend the rest of our lives with, it seems like we could overcome anything that might come up. We experience a rush of positive emotions at the thought of seeing the other person, and warm thoughts fill our mind through the day when we are apart. This is the bliss of early romance, and the mutual feeling compels us to seek time together, to connect deeper, and to experience the joy of being accepted, understood, and loved. We thrive in this connected, safe, loved state of being.
Need to find your way back to that feeling? Michele is happy to spend some time with you in person, over email or on the phone to discuss your specific needs and questions. Call 604-367-3060 or email today to get started on couples or marriage counselling in Langley.
How Does Something So Good Get So Off Track?
Romance novelists and screenwriters aren’t the only ones interested in what exactly makes this experience so compelling, so powerful, and so desirable. Marriage / Couple therapists are also keenly interested in what makes some couples practically ‘bomb-proof’ while others seem more vulnerable to the bumps along the road; why do some partners become divided, and eventually split up? If the answers were simple, we’d all figure it out on our own, and nobody would have to go through the pain of losing a once-loving relationship, or feeling lonely while staying in their relationship. Of course we do our best to make love last. When faced with something that threatens our sense of safety and connection, we do what we think will restore our relationship. For some of us, that means we try harder to reach our partner. For others, we back off and prevent a fight in order to maintain peace in the relationship. Whatever our default way of responding to relationship bumps, we are generally motivated to bring back that sense of things being right between us. Anything else hurts, and we start to feel less secure in our relationship. Over time, couples may find they’ve become unsure how to reach across to each other without triggering a negative interaction. If this persists, couples often report they feel like there’s a wall between them, made of unresolved hurts that leave each person feeling quite alone and frustrated.
Couples Therapy Research Confirms – Therapy can Repair Relationships
Research into the science of love has delved into the day to day arguments, the ways couples connect and repair their relationship, or build divisive walls between them. The good news is that over thirty years of compiled research has given couple therapists a solid foundation of scientific data upon which to build interventions that work! This is not to say that “anything and everything works”, as that would be wishful thinking. Working with a Registered Couple and Family therapist provides couples an opportunity to work with someone whose training specifically focused on the body of research and interventions for restoring healthy relationships. Working with Michele, couples can rediscover the connection that once fueled their love. Relationships can be repaired.
Michele is among a growing number of couples and marriage counselling therapists who have sought and found current, research-based solutions to the day to day difficulties couples face (Afterall, if something is clearly proven to work, isn’t this the approach you want your couples therapist to take?). Michele works with couples using approaches that incorporate comprehensive information about the individual people in a couple, the dynamics of couple relationships, the influence of extended family, and the contributions of the larger community in which we live. No two couples are exactly alike, and thus, no single approach works for all couples.
For couples where the mutual goal is to strengthen and improve communication and connection in the relationship, in most cases Michele works alongside the couple to identify the communication patterns that aren’t working for them, to understand the individual experiences that make it difficult to mend the relationship when things go poorly, and to help the couple reconnect when there’s been a regrettable experience. In this early work, the aim is to decrease the tension, and prevent new hurts to the relationship. Following this initial phase, Michele works with the couple to connect more deeply, creating greater safety and awareness of individual vulnerabilities, and supports couples who want to move past a particularly painful and divisive injury to their relationship. When people who love and want to connect with each other are able to thoroughly examine and connect through the most difficult times in their relationship, most couples find their joy and desire for each other returns, opening the way to a future of greater intimacy and passion. This second phase gives couples a sense of repairing and transforming their relationship for the better. The third phase of couple work focuses on leaving therapy with tools to sustain the gains the couple have made. When couples are learning and experiencing this deep closeness, facilitated by the therapist, this knowledge is held by the couple over the long run. Couples who complete this work gain the ability to recognize when they’re falling into a familiar trap, and they know how to connect again to mend the relationship. Couples are able to keep their relationship close, even months and years after they leave therapy.
Research Background – Optional Reading
If you’re a research and evidence kind of consumer (I know, some of you are tuning out at the sound of this – you don’t need to read on 🙂 ), and if you’re the kind of person who wants to know more about the couples therapy approaches Michele uses, the above pathway was developed from a foundation in Systems Theory (~1940’s, Dr. Murray Bowen), further researched by Dr.’s John and Julie Gottman who dove in to better understand the intricate patterns of couples who ‘made it’ and those who divorced. Their 20+ years of research (1990’s – present) led to the Gottman approach to couples therapy. Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the ten most influential therapists of the past quarter century. “Gottman’s research showed that it wasn’t only how couples fought that mattered, but how they made up. Marriages became stable over time if couples learned to reconcile successfully after a fight” (Rogers et al., 2007)
Following in their footsteps, Dr. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg combined their background in attachment theory (~1950’s, John Bowlby) and their study of the Gottman’s research (among other influences), to establish the Emotionally Focused Therapy approach to working with couples. Today, EFT is one of the most empirically validated types of couple’s therapy (Johnson et al., 2005). There is significant research on this approach and it has been found that 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery, and that 90% show significant improvements. These results appear to be less susceptible to relapse than those from other approaches (Gurman & Jacobson, 2002). As such, Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples is an evidence-based treatment protocol.
Prior to learning Gottman’s approach and EFT, Michele trained in all foundational models of couple and family therapy (Systems, Strategic, Structural, Bowenian), as well as the newer models, including Social Justice based ‘Just Therapy’, Narrative, Solution Focused, Feminist, and Social Constructionist.
Michele understands the importance of finding a therapist you can work with and trust. If you would find it helpful, Michele invites you to speak with her for an extended phone consultation, or schedule an in-person 15 minute consultation at no charge. Call 604-367-3060 or email today to get started on your couples or marriage counselling in Langley today.
- Rogers et al. “The Top 10: The Most Influential Therapists of the Past Quarter-Century”. Psychotherapy Networker. 2007.
- Johnson et al. (2005). Becoming an emotionally focused therapist: The workbook. New York: Routledge.
- Gurman, A., & Jacobson, N. (2002). Clinical Handbook of Couples Therapy. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy: Creating Secure Connections. Guilford Press, p. 226.