St. Louis Couples Counseling
Problems can arise for couples in a marriage or committed relationship due to a complex web of factors. Trust can be corroded from an infidelity, intimacy can suffer when a couple's sex life is suffering, or communication can break down due to unmanageable conflict. Additionally, life transitions such as moving, career stresses, and raising children can contribute to frequent arguments or a lost sense of connection.
Couples therapy can help partners with these issues by approaching problems on a variety of levels: behavioral, experiential, and historical.
The behavioral focus helps a couple to learn skills for better communication, conflict resolution, and seeking connection. For example, a couple who defaults to name-calling and blaming during arguments will work with a therapist to approach one another from a calm, non-defensive position by practicing the use of "I" statements, active listening skills, and bids for repair. These behavior modifications can help couples move from major blow-out fights to productive, healthy, collaborative dialogs.
When we focus on the experiential, we are looking at one's experience in the here and how. Within a single interaction, our minds can spark a multitude of thought responses. Have you ever asked your partner to do a simple chore and his/her response is defensive and agitated? You're left confused as to how a benign comment sparked such an energized response. By examining the experiential, we can consider the following:
What cognitive distortions are at play? What core beliefs are being triggered? How is one partner processing and making meaning out of messages from the other partner?
When we get curious about the many thoughts and reactions that are happening within a conversation, we can begin to make sense of how communication can become disrupted and ineffective.
Lastly, the historical focus examines some of the deeper issues that each partner may be carrying from their past. We build our blueprint for how we operate in relationships from our family of origin. Due to trauma or emotional injuries in our early childhood years, we often carry deep wounds that are easily triggered by interactions in our adult relationships. Some of these wounds can be connected to fears of abandonment, anxiety around intimacy, low self-esteem, or a need for control.
By exploring all of these levels together, couples are able to be mindful not only of their maladaptive coping strategies, but also of the history behind these behaviors. This allows partners to be compassionate and supportive of one another as opposed to hostile and defensive.