Couples Therapy

 

My focus and orientation

I help people develop the skills they need to create happy and functional relationships. I believe healthy relationships add joy and meaning to our lives, allow us to further develop and grow as individuals, and serve as a compassionate buffer in the face of life's stressors and strains.

I sit with couples with a particular focus in mind. Trained in the the Gottman Method and in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT), my goal is to help you:

  • understand the unique obstacles to love and connection in your relationship 
  • teach you how healthy and happy relationships work
  • facilitate real change in the moment through the power of insight and emotion

My hope is that you become experts in your own relationship so that over time you can learn to do at home what works in the therapy office. 

 

Why EMOTION focused therapy for couples (eft)?

  1. It's About Love: Sue Johnson, PhD developed EFT in response to the growing body of research and knowledge around attachment, how it unfolds between infants and caregivers, but more importantly for couples work, how it operates in us in close, intimate relationships over the course of a lifetime. EFT emphasizes an attachment view love. We need each other. It's how we survive, how we grow, how we thrive. Healthy and secure attachment can be used as a model for mature adult love between two people. Characterized by our ability to be emotionally available and responsive to each other, EFT can help show you how to strengthen your relationship by strengthening the attachment between you and your partner.
  2. The Relationship is the Client: In EFT the relationship is the client. Understanding the broken attachment between two people and how to repair it is the goal. This helps get people out of the 'blame game' and reduces the tendency to point fingers at each other. Problems in connecting are co-created over time -- to fix it we need to look at the relationship as a whole.    
  3. Promotes Healthy Dependency: We live in a culture that often devalues dependency. We are supposed to stand on our own two feet, grow up, and stop being so needy. Attachment research has shown that experiencing a secure attachment to a loving other actually increases our ability to move out into the world on our own in healthy ways. Relying on others promotes independence, it doesn't shut it down. In this way, healthy dependency in your love relationship can give you a 'home base' from which to continue to grow, develop, and risk in the world. Relationships help us grow!
  4. Powerful Emotions Can Bring Us Together Powerful emotions can get us into a lot of trouble and sew the seeds of relationship conflict. At the same time, they are the instrument of connection and passion. EFT focuses on re-shaping emotional experiences in the here and now, moving from defensive feelings to the primary and more vulnerable feelings underneath. When couples understand what's behind their partner's anger or indifference (desire for connection, fear, shame, hurt) it creates opportunities to risk sharing on a deeper level. Being vulnerable with each other is at the heart of a more intimate and impassioned relationship. 
  5. Learning a Better Dance: Over the course of a relationship, every couple develops unique patterns and ways of relating to each other. Like dances, there are moves and countermoves. Over time these can become fairly predictable, even rigid. Understanding and restructuring the negative aspects of these dances and creating new, healthier dances is an important way to improve your relationship. 

 

why the Gottman Method?

  1. Backed By Research: Psychologists John and Julie Gottman from the University of Washington have spent their professional lives studying the make up of successful relationships. More than theoretical guesswork, they have spent countless hours observing couples and detailing what does and does not lead to happy and successful relationships. Their  work has allowed them to identify key principals needed to enhance love and happiness between couples and prevent them from crashing and burning.   
  2. Loving Couples Act in Loving Ways: There are concrete behaviors and actions we can take that work to bring us together. These include behaviors like turning toward your partner instead of away, knowing and being involved in the life of your parter, and regularly and directly demonstrating your fondness, admiration, and appreciation for each other. 
  3. Couples Headed for Trouble Act in Predictable Ways: Hours of observation in Gottman Love Labs has led to a pretty clear idea of what predicts relationship failure. Recognizing these steps along the way and knowing how to intervene appropriately can give hope to couples who have just begun to experience some trouble as well as couples further down a destructive road. 
  4. Re-Thinking Conflict: Every relationship has conflict. Learning how to deal with and discriminate between the different types of conflict in your relationship is essential. Some conflict is the perpetual unchanging kind that's more related to personality differences. Some conflict is made up of the solvable stuff amenable to negotiation and compromise. Having effective strategies for each is one of the keys to normalizing the conflict in your relationship and keeping it from escalating into love destroying resentment and contempt. 
  5. Repair is Key: Relationships fail not because they have conflict and misunderstandings, all relationships do. Relationships fail because of an inability to make the best of repair attempts. One of the basic tenants of Gottman work is that conflict is normal and that having effective repair strategies are essential.

 

 

when communication tools aren't enough

While 'communication tools' are important, your relationship may need something more powerful, comprehensive, and impassioned. 

Couples therapy can be dynamic, exciting, and even a little unpredictable at times (maybe a bit like love itself!). Sessions are often filled with laughter one minute and tears the next.

It's this alive and even disruptive aspect of the work, though, that can move us away from old, deadening ways of being together toward something new and enlivening. 


How can I help? Schedule your first session or set up a free phone consultation.

Call 425.451.1620 or email joe@joebutlertherapy.com