Relationships make up a significant part of our life. And happy, health relationships are a big factor in overall life satisfaction. I work with couples -- married, separated, divorced, considering marriage, life partners, dating, and any other situation two people find themselves in. Same-sex and opposite sex. Religious and atheists. Sometimes the relationship that needs work is between a parent and child or two business partners. It's surprising how many of the skills are the same across domains.
Usually relationship counseling has the best chance when both people are willing to show up together and work. But, one person can learn alot by themselves, and if your partner isn't ready to join you in counseling, please come by yourself. Sometimes therapy can be helpful in discovering ways to get him or her more invested in change. And, it's often amazing how much one person behaving differently can do to shift an entire system. So, please start where you are, and we will explore where to go next.
My approach to working with couples in particular is deeply influence by two primary traditions, principled conflict resolution skills as developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project, and the work of John and Julie Gottman.
PRINCIPLED conflict resolution - The harvard model
This approach was developed as a part of the Harvard Program on Negotiation by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury and Bruce Patton. What separates this approach, in my mind, for so many others is the central focus on trying to reach agreement on difficult issues without jeopardizing the relationship. Indeed, when done well, the relationship actually improves through approaching areas of conflict. The core principles involve separating the relationship issues from the problem issues, focusing on interests not on positions, and trying to be creative in developing win-win solutions that make both people happy (not both people equally disappointed, like much traditional compromise).
The Gottman Institute
In the beginning, Dr. John Gottman’s research was devoted to the discovery of reliable patterns in observational data. He wanted to see if there were indeed patterns of behavior, or sequences of interactions, that could discriminate happy from unhappy couples. They began discovering consistent sequences that differentiated happily married from unhappily married couples. In the 1970’s, systematic observation of couples started in the Gottman lab. In a series of research studies, Dr. Gottman developed new observational coding systems with his colleagues, and the lab applied brand new methods for studying sequences of interaction. The Gottman lab also studied the linkages between marital interaction, parenting, and children’s social development. The Gottman's also found that factors influencing overall relationship satisfaction and quality are bout the same across all couple types (straight, gay, lesbian). With over 30 years of research led by Gottman and his team, and clinical tools developed by his wife, it is now possible to predict whether a couple would divorce with an average of over 90% accuracy.