Perhaps you and your spouse or significant other
have been having problems for quite some time. Perhaps you are
discovering the person you thought you wanted to live with for the
rest of your life is not who you thought he or she is. Perhaps you
are confronting and dealing with infidelity or extreme anger issues.
Perhaps there is emotional and or verbal abuse, continual sarcasm
that you have been trying to deflect or manage, but you are finding
that is not working out so well. If there is physical abuse in your
relationship, you need to find a safe house as soon as possible and
take haven there. Go to a relative’s house, a friend’s house, or a
shelter if you need to hide from your abuser. Help is available.
If you are in a situation that is safe, and you have decided to
pursue couples therapy, then the next step is to look for a licensed
therapist and sort through the different personalities and therapies
in which they have training. There are so many types of couple
therapy out there, with differing names. It can be confusing to
The goal of relationship therapy is to modify anger, helplessness
and criticality in a relationship to assertion, feelings of
self-efficacy and action, and affection. Sometimes there can be an
identified mental illness, such as major depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, generalized anxiety that is interfering with the
couples ability to relate.
In your internet searches in your area, three of the methods that
you will probably find many couples/marriage counselors are trained
in are Gottman Couples Therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy and
Emotion Focused Therapy. Many therapists are trained in several methods, but have not chosen to get fully certified in any one method, as it is very expensive and time-consuming to go through the hoops, and then one’s practice is tied to a copyrighted method.
What are the differences between these
methods? I will give you a hint, there are more similarities than differences, and therapists generally have a broad range of additional training to support their work with you.
The Gottman Method is based
on 30 years of research in which John Gottman, PhD. D., is actually
one of the principal researchers. Dr. Gottman and his colleagues
studied hundreds of real-life couples in minute detail, recording
behaviors and emotions. Gottman discovered that the prevalence of
four emotions/behaviors predict divorce. The fours
emotions/behaviors, which he calls the Four Horsemen, are Criticism,.
Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. In the therapy, the
therapist and couple work to identify strengths and areas of
improvement in the relationship, and identify exercised to
reduce/eliminate the Four Horsemen. Communication and relationship
skills are taught.
Relationship Therapy is based on the idea that we unconsciously
choose our partners as a way to repair the hurts we experienced as
children, and to fill in emotional gaps. For instance, we long to
feel bliss and connection, so in the rush of romantic love, we feel
deeply loved and cherished by our partner. Our partner may also be
outgoing where we are more reserved, so we also unconsciously choose
a partner who has qualities we do not have. As the relationship
evolves, we find that our partner cannot meet all our unmet needs,
and we begin to negotiate, cry, manipulate for what we want.
Disillusion and anger sets in. Imago therapy is based on learning
the Imago Dialog, a method to experience deep listening, sharing and
Sue Johnson, PhD. D, developed Emotion
Focused Therapy. EFT is based on 20 years of empirical research
regarding marriage relationships and adult love or attachment. The
therapy uses exercises based on client-centered techniques and family
systems work in order to restore the attachment bond between the
The best way to know if a therapist is a good fit for you is to
call up and ask for a 15 minute consultation over the phone. Couch
shop. Ask some questions about their experience, how they practice,
what methods they use. Therapists are trained to quickly establish
rapport with a client. That is their job. If you do not feel
comfortable talking with the therapist on the phone, then find
someone with whom you do feel comfortable. Try to choose someone
close to your home or work. If the office location is not convenient,
you won’t be able to make the sessions. Remember you are allowed to
couch shop, but don’t use the selection process as a way to
procrastinate. Narrow down the phone choices to three or so. Chances
are you will find someone pretty quickly. If you are in a densely
populated area, there are usually quite a few therapy offices near
you. Often the best referrals are from a friend or relative.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments, I’m glad to