Couples’ therapy is a service I offer. My vision of the typical process of couples therapy has evolved over years of study, practice, and experience. The basic elements of that process follow.
My personal perception is that the foundation of all good therapy, and especially therapy with couples, starts with the couple being able to be in a positive mental/emotional state when relating to each other, especially in content areas that have be conflicted. The research evidence is very clear that if either partner is in a negative mental/emotional state that conversation almost always goes poorly and ends poorly and becomes another negative and confidence eroding encounter. If both parties begin in and maintain a positive mental/emotional state those conversations are much more likely to end in mutual understanding and congruent agreements which will enable lasting conflict resolution and a great level of relationship satisfaction. I have a number of tools, patterns, and processes I share with couples to enhance their ability to stay in a positive state or to shift from a negative to a more positive state: Heartmath’s Freeze Frame; NLP’s Core Transformation, Dynamic Spin Release, and Aligning Perceptual Positions; the Sedona Method’s process of releasing.
The second process with couples is enhancing their ability to develop mutual understanding which is the second element of the process. This basically involves developing the skill and practice of each partner being able to listen to their partner from within their partner perceptual world. In NLP language that means being “in the other” and listening from there with the intention of understanding them from within their own perceptual world and reflecting back to them until the partner feels fully understood on that topic. Then the roles are reversed and the process goes forward until the other partner feels fully understood on that same topic. Conflicts that don’t reach this mutually understanding place are usually doomed to be repeated over and over.
When this type of mutual understanding has been achieved, then the couple is ready to explore, using the same kind of communication skills, agreements to resolve the conflict. The quality we are looking for here is “congruence” — whole-hearted agreement and acceptance by both partners. If congruence is not achieved, it is likely that the agreement will not last and the couple will have to revisit this part of the process again.
These skills and capabilities are developed using real content from the couple’s real life.
Usually couples therapy also involves some individual therapy where one or both partners will work on a particularly difficult part of their perceptual field which could be a belief, emotional response, or behavior that seriously disrupts the marriage or the success of the above process. The Core Transformation Process from NLP is particularly helpful in these situations.