Marital & Couples Counseling: A Research-Based Approach
The Gottman Method is an approach to marital and couples’ therapy that involves a thorough assessment of the relationship and integrates research-based interventions. It is based on longitudinal research over the course of 30-years that have resulted in the identification of negative behavior patterns and dynamics in relationships that are predictive of divorce. I have clinical training in the Gottman Method directly through the Gottman Institute and have been successfully utilizing this assessment and intervention approach at my practice with couples for many years.
Marital & Couples Counseling Protocol
- Assessment: A conjoint session, followed by individual interviews with each partner are conducted. Couples complete electronic screening measures and then during our next conjoint appointment, I will provide detailed feedback on the identified areas for growth, as well as the existence of negative behavior patterns and dynamics that are predictors of divorce.
- Therapeutic Framework: After completion of the assessment phase, the couple and I decide on the frequency and duration of sessions
- Interventions: Interventions are designed to help couples strengthen their relationships in three primary areas: friendship, conflict management, and creation of shared meaning. Couples learn to replace negative conflict patterns with positive interactions and to repair past hurts. Interventions designed to increase closeness and intimacy are used to improve friendship, deepen emotional connection, and create changes which enhances the couples shared goals. Relapse prevention is also addressed.
Dr. Forshee’s Philosophy
- The couples therapy process is mostly dyadic; meaning, between the couple. My goal is to teach couples how to communicate with each other, not with me. Over time, this promotes confidence they can rely on each other and again, reinforces the notion that a third-party intervening in their relationship will not always be a necessary force for their relationship to be successful. I will act more as a validating coach and “translator” of the feelings and needs of each person in the interaction. I will also explain and teach constructive conflict management skills and provide methods and concrete interventions for the couple to deepen their friendship and intimacy
- I encourage couples to fight in my office as they would at home. My role is not to stop conflict, but to allow the process to unfold as it would in its natural environment (unless safety is compromised). This allows for a process called “state-dependent learning”, which when exposed to it, provides opportunity for both partners to learn how to self-soothe, and soothe one another. This renders the therapist replaceable, as you will learn to deal with conflict on your own and as a couple, ultimately minimizing a couple’s relapse upon termination of therapy
- Beating up people about undesirable behaviors is not necessary. Instead, the focus is on inquiry, exploration and understanding. Overall, much of conflict resolution is an exploration of meaning behind the conflict, not the content of the conflict itself
- Some may view marital and couples’ therapy as a way to fix major disorders in their partner, with perhaps some minor adjustments for themselves. This is called the “fundamental attribution error” or attributing the sources of relationship problems to the other and not to oneself. In all relationships, each person’s behavior is affected by the other. This is called “circular causality”. Instead of labeling one person as pathological, each person’s pathology is viewed as a reaction to the others. Because I approach conflict from this perspective, I am able to maintain a neutral stance during sessions. This is imperative to the integrity of marital and couples counseling and to the desired outcome of treatment
- While exploration of childhood is necessary to understand how experiences have influenced how people view relationships, the world and themselves, marital and couples counseling is not intended to heal or change how these experiences may have affected the person they are today
- My stance on emotions is in line with Darwin’s theory- all emotions are functional. It is not necessarily true that behind anger lies the primary emotion of fear, nor is it necessarily true that behind anger is insecurity, attachment or psychiatric problems (though in some it may be). In marital and couples counseling, the expression and understanding of pure anger can be the basis for greater understanding, fairness, emotional connection, and bonding for partners.
In situations where infidelity was the catalyst for couples counseling, I may determine a need for a “contracting” session to occur prior to the commencement of any interventions. The contracting session is essential in relationships where there has been an infidelity because of the shattered foundation of trust and assumptions of what the marriage once was, as well as the heightened emotions that follow. During the contracting session, we will outline what it will take to repair the relationship (potentially, the need for partner to disclose details of the infidelity); cut off all contact with the other; rebuild a relationship; the disclosing of any further contact with the affair partner prior to your own partner inquiring, and talking about the infidelity only during counseling appointments. Couples and marital counseling are contraindicated in instances where one partner is continuing to have contact with the affair partner.
Confidentiality: Marital & Couples Counseling
The goal of couples and marital counseling is the amelioration of psychological distress and interpersonal conflict and is dependent upon trust and openness during therapy sessions. My client is the couple and their relationship; not the parties individually. Therefore, information disclosed during the initial individual sessions is not confidential. Confidentiality is not guaranteed in marital or couples’ therapy, and anything shared in an individual session will be discussed in subsequent therapy sessions with your partner if it is necessary for proper treatment. If information is shared during an individual session that needs to be disclosed to the partner, I will offer the individual every opportunity to disclose the relevant information and provide guidance in this process. Should the individual opt not to disclose the relevant information, privately, or with my assistance, counseling will be terminated. The same applies to phone calls, voice mails, text messages and email messages.