One of our specialties at Heart of the City is working with couples and relationships. Having trained in marriage and family therapy, we really enjoy and are passionate about having more than one person in the room. Therapy tends be most effective when we can have as many relevant people involved as possible. That being said, we understand oftentimes just one person in a relationship is able to participate in therapy and that's okay. We work with clients wherever they are in their relationship and their therapeutic journey.
Approaches to Couples Therapy
There are many approaches to working with couples and relationships in a therapeutic setting. At Heart of the City, we will work with you in order to choose a style and method that makes sense for your unique relationship. Each couple is different and we believe it's important to honor that uniqueness and treat each couple as the expert on their relationship.
Our therapists tend to use a combination of evidence-based methods including the Gottman Method of Relationship Therapy, mindfulness, experiential therapy, and Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy. We strongly believe in the usefulness of these approaches in conceptualizing and improving relationships.
Gottman's Four Horsemen
Dr. John Gottman's research on relationships led to his discovery of "The Four Horsemen" which may predict divorce or relationship dissolution: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The Gottman Institute's website has an extensive explanation of each horseman and how to counteract them in your relationship. Identifying the occurrence of the four horsemen in a relationship is one of the first steps your therapist will take in assessing your relationship and possible treatment strategies.
THe importance of emotion
One of the main concepts of Dr. Sue Johnson's Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is the distinction between primary and secondary emotions. Secondary emotions are most often the expressed emotions, such as anger or frustration. These tend to be the emotions we are aware of and express openly when in conflict with our partner. Dr. Johnson argues that secondary emotions tend to mask our primary emotions, which are the true drivers of relationship conflict but are often unacknowledged. Primary emotions, such as fear of abandonment or shame, tend to be more vulnerable and we tend to be unaware of them. In this approach, your therapist will help you identify when you are experiencing secondary and primary emotions and coach you on how to more openly express your primary emotions with your partner. Dr. Johnson's research shows that couples who are able to express primary emotions tend to be better at resolving conflict and feel more understood by their partner.