Marital Therapy/Couple's Counseling

Couples come for help at different stages and with varying needs. Some couples are:

  • Excited and considering marriage, but hesitant, scared, wanting to assure the right decision and a good start. Some are uncertain about the commitment of marriage.
  • Married or exclusively committed to each other, but stuck in a rough patch of repetitive arguments.
  • Loving, but losing joy and closeness in the heat of work, parenting, and the stress of busy lives.
  • Drifting and disconnected at risk for or struggling with an affair, longstanding unmet needs, and mutual feelings of hurt and betrayal on many fronts.
  • Deciding whether to separate or divorce. If so, wanting to part in peace with less pain and improved teamwork on behalf of children, instead of ongoing bitterness and custody battles. Or already separated to defuse tensions, but reconsidering trying again to work things out.
  • Successful, but an "empty nest" presenting challenges for reconnecting and redefining roles, expectations, and dreams for a new stage of life.

All are familiar dilemmas, but each couple brings their own unique personalities and life stories. They want clarity and are determined to find answers and effective solutions.

Finding solutions for you
Successful solutions begin with a detailed understanding of your situation. A 3-step relationship repair assessment can be tremendously helpful. This is a bit like taking your car to a mechanic to run diagnostic checks on all systems. Based on information you both provide and my professional experience in helping hundreds of clients, we determine if you have a fender-bender requiring just a little body-work or minor repair; if the engine needs to be rebuilt; if the car is completely totaled; if you both bought a "lemon" to begin with or if you might actually have a classic worth it to you to restore.

My qualifications
I have worked with hundreds of clients, couples, and families in several contexts. I served as Field Coordinator for the Alzheimer's Family Support Program at the Duke Center for Aging from 1981-1984, assisting couples and families struggling with mid-life and aging issues, caregiving concerns, and dementing illnesses. In 1992, I completed my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill. Subsequently, I worked in psychiatric hospitals and private practice settings, assisting people with problems ranging from normal developmental life transitions to severe mental illness. Although many couples struggle with normal relationship strains, others are confronted with more complex problems, such as unrecognized or inadequately treated depression, bipolar spectrum disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, and trauma.

In 2000, I began my study of Dr. John Gottman's research-based approach to marital therapy. In 2006, I completed the advanced study in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, taught by Drs. John & Julie Gottman. I often use the Gottmans' "Sound Marital House" framework, as well as information from other reputable resources, as a basis to help you more objectively evaluate your situation. It helps to see a therapist, such as myself, who has a broad base of training and many years of professional experience. I can help you make more carefully thought out, better informed decisions. You don't want to destroy a relationship because of reacting impulsively to your immediate frustrations, a lousy chapter in your lives, or longstanding gridlock in which you're both stuck and despairing.

The 3-Step Relationship Repair Assessment

1. First you, your partner, and I meet together. You tell me about your history as a couple and the sore spots where you are struggling.

2. You each complete a set of written questionnaires, and return those to me for review and analysis. Each partner meets with me separately for an individual session. I get an overview of his or her family background, strengths and vulnerabilities, significant life experiences, and perspectives on the current relationship problems. You benefit by expressing yourself without interruption from your partner in a non-confrontational setting, in a comfortable exploratory conversation with me. As a result of your first joint session and completing the written questionnaires, you both are encouraged to look at your relationship from a broader, long-term view. Your immediate problems, challenges, and goals become clearer to you and me.

3. We meet again jointly. I give you an in-depth, two hour session of feedback. From all the interview and questionnaire information you both provided, I share my professional perspectives about strengths of your relationship, recommendations for changes you may want to make, and specific suggestions you can consider in deciding what steps to take next. You each get a written summary of my feedback for further reflection.

Whether your goal is to stay together and strive for the happiness you dreamed of or to part from one another with the best outcome possible, at the conclusion of this assessment process you will each have a better understanding of where you and your relationship/marriage stand today and why. You will have a clearer vision of exactly where your relationship could be in the near and longer term future. Most importantly, you will be well-informed about specific steps you can take that will help you reach your goals.

After the "relationship repair assessment," then what?
Sometimes from just the assessment process, a couple decides to experiment first on their own using the feedback, guidance, and self-help resources I suggest. They may return later for further assistance if needed.

Other couples decide to pursue more intensive work and schedule additional sessions, where we work on helping them recognize and more quickly stop destructive patterns. With active coaching and "homework," they learn to use more effective relationship attitudes and skills. Throughout sessions, I explain best marital/couple practices based on sound research and accumulated knowledge. The structure, support, and quiet safe setting enable partners to clarify their needs as individuals and together as a team. It's incredibly gratifying when good people discover more rewarding ways of relating, and get back to loving each other with lightness, laughter, and a much deeper appreciation.

For some couples, the goal is damage control. Some partners decide they would be healthier and happier separating or divorcing. They travel a little further in therapy to learn together from their mistakes, accomplish kinder communication, and address some of the logistics of parting and collaborative parenting. They want to leave anger and sadness behind, arrive at acceptance, and begin new chapters in their lives.

Get help now -- ignorance is not bliss!
Letting a relationship reach crisis proportions before deciding to get help is an all too common mistake. Sadly, too many couples spend more time and money maintaining their cars than in maintaining their marriage or partnership. Couple's therapy does require a financial commitment but your sanity is worth it, and it's usually cheaper than divorce! Is your relationship due for a tune-up? Evening and week-end appointments available. Call or email for rate information.

Copyright 2005 - 2007 Beverly D. Brooks, Ph. D., P.A.