Who we love and how we love them as well as how much love we let ourselves express or let in, how much we love the self we are/ become in a relationship and how we let go when our journey together comes to an end are some of the most important lessons and opportunities for growth we as humans get to experience on this planet.
Couples therapy or relationship coaching can be highly effective tools for couples to achieve or restore deep intimacy and a loving and supportive relationship and turn relationship challenges into opportunities for transformation and deep personal growth.
Intimate relationships are where we often experience the deepest sense of opening and connection. They are the place where we get to see our innermost beauty and our deepest challenges. The closer we get to someone the more we get to experience our depth and capacity to love as well as the places in us and them ruled by past woundings, unconscious projections and insecurities. We get faced with all the ways we and them avoid deeper intimacy. Depending how we engage and hold each other’s negative or intimacy sabotaging attitudes and reactions in those places we can create a terrain for further wounding or a place for immense growth and healing on both sides.
I have experience in working with couples from different cultural backgrounds, stages in the relationship, sexual orientation and preferred relationship styles. I am direct and interactive with the couples I work with. I consider it very important to give them tools, teach them communication skills and give between-sessions assignments in which the new tools get practiced and new positive patterns of interaction get built in.
In my work with couples I love to also work experientially. Facilitating couples in experiencing the deeper dynamics of their relationship in a mindful, embodied way in the room can often shift those dynamics much quicker and from a deeper place. You might have worked with therapist in the past who focus mainly on the story of the difficulties and spend a lot of time dealing with the ‘he said- she said’ part of the symptoms and and found it frustrating. You might have experienced that learning mainly communication skills without dealing with the deeper dynamics not very helpful on the long run. If that has been the case you might experience that working experientially offers a quick and efficient way away to access and shift not only the symptoms of the relational difficulties but also their roots in the deep dynamics of the relationship.
WHEN TO CONSIDER COUPLE’S THERAPY
Most couples go to a couple’s therapist or to a relationship coach when ‘the shit hits the fan’ and the partners are either fighting a lot or the distance between them is so big already that break up seems in sight. My attitude about couple’s therapy is similar to my attitude about medicine, which is ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a tone of cure’. I encourage couples to check in with a therapist or a relationship coach not only when negative interaction patterns have been so heavy for so long and so much trust has already been broken and so many habits for negative interaction have already been created, but ideally much earlier.
Couples therapy or relationship coaching can be an important foundation builder at the beginning of a relationship. Sitting down with the new person you have feelings for and want to go deep with and creating a shared vision together or negotiating differences before they have turned into breaks of trust or negative interaction patterns can save a lot of future pain and potential disappointments or betrayals. Another time I would recommend couple’s therapy or relationship coaching is when negative patterns of interaction have just started creeping into a relationship. A mistake a lot of people make is to wait so long until they seek help that by the time they come to my office we have to deal not only with the issues at hand and the current dynamics of interaction but also with long standing hurt, anger and resentment from all the times they have been hurt by their partner in the past.
Once dysfunctional patterns become so entrenched in a relationship that a habit and a strong dynamic has built around them, it takes much more work, time and money to re-align than if help was sought when the issues first appeared. Changing a behavior or a self- or -other defeating attitude is is in itself a important piece of work. Breaking a longstanding, established negative pattern and replacing it with a growth promoting one is another significant piece, which can be avoided or shortened if support is sought earlier.
Couple’s therapy and relationship coaching can be also of great help for a couple in the process of separation or after a break up. Separating two paths which have been intertwined for a while without losing mutual respect or without carrying excessive resentment… Letting go while honoring everything beautiful that has been shared as a couple and maybe keeping the parts of the relationship that are still alive and valued after the romantic bond is disconnected, can be a very healing and growth promoting experience. Having closure from a connected, caring place can reduce the amount of pain, build a base for future friendship and heighten one’s chances of healthy and rewarding relationships in the future.
MY TRAINING IN COUPLE’S THERAPY
I began my first training in Family Therapy and in Couple’s therapy at the Free University Berlin and at CIIS. I extended my training in couple’s therapy during my internship at New Perspectives Center for Counseling. This was consolidated with training in Experience- and Mindfulness- Centered Couple’s Therapy at the Hakomi Institute of San Francisco and in my studies of RCS (Re-creation of the Self) where I undertook extra training on couple’s work using the RCS approach.