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Marital & Family Therapy

When a couple comes to me for marital therapy, there’s often a thick wall with very specific bricks that are dividing them and preventing them from hearing one another and connecting. Part of my job, as I see it, is to help the couple appreciate and understand the bricks that make up that wall and how they formed. Fear and hurt often loom as classic components.

Every couple has its own specific challenge. And, although no two couples are the same, there is this unifying challenge around intimacy and how to be connected and stay connected. There is no cookie cutter approach to couple’s work. I help couples use the inevitable problems with sex and intimacy to help them grow present time consciousness in relationship to one another.

Among traditional approaches, I integrate many of these from leading experts, including David Schnarch’s book, Passionate Marriage. The objective is to help a couple learn how to stand strong in their own skin in relationship to one another, as opposed to leaning on one another in order to feel strong. It’s moving couples out of a co-dependent role to a more holistic self-validated position.

The Chicago Stress Relief Center also specializes in alternative therapies that use a holistic approach. Sometimes, I’ll recommend a very specific skill-building exercise – such as kissing with eyes open or hugging until both partners are relaxed. There could be stress factors in place from a variety of sources, from issues related to parenting, infertility, chronic pain or depression, and I may steer them into a specific skill-building group. Acupuncture or hypnosis might be recommended as an adjunct to the treatment. A session in our floatation tank may be a way to quiet one’s mind and calm one’s body, an essential prerequisite to opening the door to staying in one’s skin during the inevitable challenge of restoring intimacy.

There are five pillars or principles that exist in marriage that differentiate a healthy marriage from an unhealthy one. It’s not about the amount of conflict in a marriage that defines healthy vs. unhealthy or good vs. bad; it’s the amount of positive interaction. So you can have discontent and you can have conflict. The strength of a couple is supported by the ability to do the following:

  • Express appreciation for one another.
  • Share new information about your day. This is about updating your partner’s hard drive to what seems most psychologically significant to you.
  • Demonstrate authentic curiosity about your partner’s life and what they’re doing.
  • Offer a respectful complaint with a specific request for change.
  • Express your wishes, hopes, and dreams to your partner.

If you’re including these five pillars or principles in your interactions with your partner, you are building the groundwork to move and change no matter what type of relationship challenge is present.

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