Most psychotherapists work with individuals. Some work with a range of populations. Some focus on certain age groups, and some on particular disorders or life issues. Many work with groups as well. But few clinicians venture into the world of treating couples and family therapy.
As a devoted couples therapist, I want to offer the most simple of tactics for a rich and productive session.
At least part of the reason the couple is in your office, is they have stopped listening to each other. They have stopped noticing or caring about the impact of their words. Literally the only thing you have to do is get them to hear each other and notice how their partner reacts to their words.
You dont have to devise some creative, elaborate plan for getting them to listen to each other. All you have to do is listen yourself and ask if they saw what you saw.
Partner 1: blah blah blah blah
Partner 2: tears up a bit, or shakes their head, or exhales, or rolls their eyes
Partner 1: blah blah…..
Therapist interrupts: Hold up a second. (to Partner 1): Did you see how your words impacted your partner. Take a look at them.
Therapist :(to partner 2) I saw you blah blah blah. Can you tell us what is going on with you?
Partner 2: Blah blah blah
Therapist: (to partner 1). Did you know that? What does it feel like to know that now?
I promise, it cracks the work right open. And it isn’t a one time tactic. It is the standard tactic throughout the session for at least the first few sessions.
For a good portion of the session the couple should be directed to look at and talk to each other, rather than to you. Sometimes it is repeating something they have just explained to you, something potent. You simply ask them to repeat it, but looking at each other.
Partners are so desperate to be heard. And most couples have a deep reserve of love that can surface as soon as they are willing to take in that their partner is suffering.
It is also true that most couples have a deep reserve of hurt and rage. But even that will move the sessions forward as the couple is require to look at, notice, hear and respond to each others words and emotions.
Even in the case that you see one partner unwilling to hear the other, or unwilling to be impacted emotionally by the other, you then have that to comment on.
Smith is an analytically oriented psychotherapist with 25 years in practice. She is additionally the Founder/Director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which specializes in matching clients with seasoned clinicians in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
If you are interested in therapy and live in Philadelphia or the Greater Philadelphia Area, please let Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practicematch you with a skilled, experienced psychotherapist based on needs and issues as well as personality and style. Request an Appointment Today.
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Author Karen L. Smith MSS LCSW Karen is the founder and director of Full Living: A Psychotherapy Practice, which provides thoughtful matches for clients seeking therapists in the Philadelphia Area. She provides analytically oriented psychotherapy, and offers education for other therapists seeking to deepen and enriching their work with object relation concepts.