Couples tend to seek therapy because they are having trouble communicating. Sometimes they are not talking enough to each other, sometimes they are talking too much, sometimes not very nicely, sometimes too nicely. Often members of a couple are just discovering that, contrary to common belief, talking openly and honestly with a significant other is very difficult or not even advisable. The stakes are very high.
Initially, I try to work with couples, usually with both members present, on their styles of talking to one another and the content of what each person is saying. By establishing ground rules for how to talk and by clarifying the points people want to make, communication often starts to improve quickly. I then try to explore patterns in a couple’s relationship about issues such a power, control, separation, and individuation; how they make decisions and settle differences; how each person’s personal history and family of origin have influenced the couple’s relationship.