Marriage, Family & Couples Counseling

Marriage, family and couples counseling can be extremely rewarding, and most people find it enjoyable on some level. With the divorce rate approaching 60% in the last several years, it is one of the most needed counseling services in the country. Some might even say that it addresses one of the most important problems facing our country. Unfortunately, most people do not seek professional help for their marriage, family or other significant relationships. They might fear being labeled or falling prey to some inaccurate, social judgment. Another reason people do not get help is that they have endured the problem for so long that they begin to experience a sense of helplessness or a belief that nothing can really change, even with professional help. All too often people endure the hurt, pain, isolation and overall sadness that goes along with an unhappy or dysfunctional relationship for way too long, and it just simply does not have to be this way. Marriage, family and couples counseling can help people make tremendous strides in a relatively short period of time by getting new information, learning new behavioral and communication skills or simply by having someone give them a perspective other than the ones in which they have become stuck or rooted.

Certainly there are inappropriate and dysfunctional patterns that emerge in relationships. Long term, these difficulties can result in behavioral, emotional, psychological and even physical problems. Interpersonal dynamics can become habituated to the point where they are still being used despite their ineffectiveness. One of the most basic problems involves communication. Marriage, family and couples problems are primarily rooted in communication difficulties. So many of the problems in all relationships are fundamentally rooted in poor communication skills. The fact that families, couples and people simply give up and stop communicating as often or as intimately as they once did sheds light on why there are so many troubled relationships in the world. It is sad because so much can be accomplished when people begin to understand what the other person or people in the relationship really are feeling. Understanding, or at least acknowledging, another’s thoughts and feelings is typically where marriage, couples and family therapy begins.

Getting started with therapy doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t necessarily require a lot of hard work. A good counselor/therapist can help couples or families make tremendous strides with some very simple techniques such as making eye contact. When people make eye contact, they tend to talk to each other rather than at each other. It is something that can take just moments to master. Another valuable skill is using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. “I” statements can more clearly define and share one’s own awareness and feelings whereas “you” statements can be experienced as some kind of attack. Nobody enjoys being told what they think or feel, particularly if it is inaccurate. By getting the individuals to focus on their own experience and share appropriately without placing blame or making some decision about who is right or wrong, a good counselor/therapist can help clients avoid one of the most common problems in relationships, and that is playing “the blame game”. Most people would really be surprised, some may be in fact amazed, by the number of relationships that have been saved simply by getting new or more accurate information about each other’s experience, learning a few simple communication techniques or just by establishing a time period in which no negatives are discussed. Certainly not all problems are going to be systemically cleared by using some of these simple techniques, but they are an integral part of getting couples and families started.

Here at Side By Side one of the main goals is to get families or couples involved in elevating their level of accountability to a sense of “us” rather than a sense of “me vs. you”. This can take some time, but it is a fundamental shift in the dynamics between the people, and ultimately they end up seeing each other as something greater than themselves which can take them to levels of joy, happiness and even excitement and adventure that they would not have been able to accomplish alone. It is well known that as a species we do better in the overall quality of our lives in relationship than we do as individuals. It is also well known that if two people share a common commitment toward a mutual goal, they can accomplish more success, more happiness and better overall experiences than is possible alone.

Couples and families can do a lot in a short period of time simply by learning new communication styles, exploring behavioral dynamics, learning stress management or other coping skills, or evaluating each one’s own wants, needs and aspirations. Most people, once they understand what the experience is like for the others involved, will begin working together as a unit to bring about the desired result with the ultimate result being that the family or couple is more important and has more potential for good than any individual on his or her own.

Here at Side By Side Counseling we work very closely with family members and couples to get them to elevate their own individual and mutual awareness, to improve their communication skills and to change the behavior patterns back to the level of intensity and intimacy that occurred when they were first drawn together.

It happens here all the time, and that is why I share with my patients that it does not have to be an ordeal to get a family or couple back to an increased level of intimacy, a sense of enjoyment or peace with one another or even a sense of excitement and adventure for the new things to come. If you are serious about saving your relationships, get in touch with a good counselor/therapist. You may want to interview several. Most good counselors/therapists will give you a free consult so that you can determine whether or not there is a connection and a good possibility that you can work together to move forward and resolve whatever issues there may be. We have always done that here at Side By Side Counseling, and we look forward to working with you in whatever capacity you may need.

Michael G. Morris CDWIE, CRT, LCAS