CAN MY MARRIAGE OR MY FAMILY BE SAVED?
Maintaining an emotionally healthy family life takes work. Conflict and disagreement is a natural part of people living together. Whether the marital relationship itself is the source of the most stress or the overall family dynamic needs improvement, several effective approaches to increase peace and happiness in the home are available. I am licensed to provide marriage counseling, family therapy, and therapy for children or adolescents. The approach I used is generically referred to as Family Systems Therapy.
The most frequent complaint in marriages is “we don’t communicate.” I have found that unexpressed expectations about the kind of marriage you entered and limitations in effective problem solving are greater obstacles to tranquility and satisfaction in marriage than poor communication skills. Marriage counseling is likely to include segments of communication skill training, but co-operative problem solving is a more powerful, more direct pathway to marital satisfaction through counseling.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
Marriage counseling or family therapy occurs in a non-judgmental context. The needs of each participant are acknowledged and affirmed. The therapy process is referred to as “a safe place” to do the necessary work of self-examination and interaction with other members of the family. Effective confrontation skills are developed that help spouses or family members learn how to express their frustration, sadness or anger more effectively. Spouses or families are sometimes encouraged to write clearly stated contracts with each other to help identify sources of conflict or “stuck points.” Spouses and families sometimes have assignments or projects to work on between sessions. On the other hand, sometimes family members are asked to stop talking or arguing about something specific until they come to their next session.
WHAT ABOUT MY PRIVACY?
I’ve learned that trusting a therapist with private personal information is hard, but disclosing your fears about being dissatisfied with your spouse can be much harder. In marital therapy, spouses work together as well as separately to understand the process of increasing intimacy, happiness and enduring commitment to each other. Couples learn to accept each other’s private spaces in order to progress in therapy.
IF MY CHILD IS YOUR PATIENT, HOW DO I FIND OUT WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT?
Parents are asked to allow minor children to have a strictly confidential relationship with me for the sake of therapy. The Colorado state regulations regarding confidentiality are carefully explained both to parents and to children. If a child talks about something that is not covered by law but is something that I believe their parents should know, I work with the child to share that information. In almost all cases of therapy with a minor, I request parents to have occasional sessions with the child, with the clear understanding that I am the child’s ally in the therapeutic process.
HOW DO I KNOW IF IT’S WORKING
Successful marital or family therapy means that home life changes from a battleground to a source of personal growth. This doesn’t mean that all disagreements disappear, that no one ever yells at anyone any more, or that everyone gets along all the time. It does mean that all members of the marriage or the family develop an increased ability to speak their mind in a way that leads to better outcomes, with less defensiveness and less hurt, fear or anger in the home. You know that your marriage or family therapy is working when you experience less of “the same old arguments,” and the same recurring feelings of hatred and shame. Marital or family therapy is working when disagreement leads not to resentment, but to constructive arguments that result in greater clarity, self-acceptance and trust.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE, WHAT DOES IT COST?
Marriage counseling usually takes about six months before conflict begins to become transformed from a highly distressing source of negative emotion to an opportunity to experience greater peace and closeness at home. The fees for marital, family or child therapy are the same as for a session of adult individual therapy.
I have worked with over 400 divorcing couples. If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce or have decided to split up, I can help you navigate the turbulence of resuming separate lives. If children are involved, divorce counseling can profoundly reduce the intensity, animosity and cost of divorce. I do not offer legal advice. I do not provide custody evaluations, parenting time evaluations or Child and Family Investigations. I require ex- or soon to be ex-spouses in divorce counseling with me to sign an agreement exempting me from court testimony as I will not be an advocate for one spouse against the other except in cases involving spousal or child assault. I will help divorcing spouses design an equitable and satisfactory co-parenting plan. I do not make any recommendations regarding division of property or finances for divorcing spouses. Instead, I recommend the services of a skilled forensic accountant. Utilizing experienced, impartial experts who have no advocacy position in the divorce process can save an immeasurable amount of heart ache, humiliation and rage through the divorce process. Effective divorce counseling could take six months. It could cost as much as $3,000. High conflict or contested divorce can take years and can cost, literally, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have personally worked with families who expended their entire lifetime savings, including their children’s college funds, through an adversarial divorce, only to come to their own equitable agreement after the money was gone. At that point, so much damage has been inflicted by the ex-spouses that effective co-parenting after the divorce becomes only a remote possibility, and the children suffer even more than the parents. Divorce counseling is a cost-efficient, conservative and rational alternative to adversarial divorce.