Relationship Counseling Questions & Answers

What should we expect in our first couples sessions?

When couples come to see me, they are often distressed about the state of their relationship.  Typically, walls have been put up, and resentment and frustration are building. I find that couples want to begin moving in a more positive direction quickly and appreciate a direct, action-oriented approach.  My job is to jumpstart the process and my immediate goals are to:

  • Begin to understand the dynamics that led to the current issues 
  • Identify areas of strength in the relationship
  • Quickly assess options to intervene and inject positive energy into the relationship

How do you introduce positive energy into a relationship?

There are a variety of techniques I use, according the situation.  For example, when beginning therapy, each partner may be feeling unappreciated for their efforts in the relationship.  To address this, in the first or second session we will often do an appreciation exercise.  This is a chance for each person to be thoughtful about the contributions their partner is making, while also receiving positive feedback from their partner for their own contributions in the relationship.  Many times this type of exchange has not happened in a while and it can be very powerful.

What is the basis for your approach to counseling?  Is it supported by research?

The foundation of my approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts ultimately determine our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events.  The premise of CBT is that we can change the way we think to feel better and act more positively in difficult situations. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches clients to manage their thoughts, emotions and behaviors on their own, reducing the likelihood of slipping back into problem patterns.  CBT is an “evidence-based treatment” with numerous, peer-reviewed studies supporting its effectiveness.

What about your approach to relationship counseling?

My work with couples leverages proven concepts and techniques developed by prominent psychologists and researchers.  While I draw on a variety of frameworks and tools, two of the most influential couples/relationship-specific methods are listed below.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy – Developed by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, the Gottman Method is based on intensive, detailed, and long-term scientific studies of why marriages succeed or fail.

Emotionally-Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT or EFT-C) – Created by Dr. Sue Johnson and Dr. Les Greenberg.  EFT recognizes that core emotions of attachment and fears of loss arise deep in the brain. These areas of the brain are less available to our awareness, so EFT focuses on emotions as the target and agent of change.  The concepts and techniques of Emotionally-Focused Therapy effectively complement Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Please note that Emotionally-Focused Therapy has absolutely no relationship to a widely questioned self-help practice called Emotional Freedom Techniques.

How long will couples therapy take?

I have seen couples make dramatic positive changes in five or six sessions.  Every situation is unique, however.  The length of time a couple participates in therapy is directly related to a number of factors, positive and negative.  See below.

What are some of the key factors contributing to a successful experience in counseling?

 There are a number of important elements common to couples that succeed in counseling:

  • The willingness of each person to honestly and openly look at their behavior in the relationship
  • The effort each is committed to make in learning new and more positive ways to work together, as well as realistic expectations about the effort required to make lasting change
  • The foundation of friendship, trust, mutual respect, common values, and communication in the relationship

What will we take away from our experience in relationship counseling?

A healthy, mutually satisfying relationship is hard work and benefits from ongoing dialogue and tweaking.  By helping couples develop healthier ways of thinking, experiencing emotions and behaving, I provide tools that couples can use to overcome their current problems, re-connect and re-gain a truly satisfying, loving relationship.  To be truly successful, couples must use the tools and continue to work at their relationships.

Other Questions

For other questions or for a brief phone consultation, please call me.  We can discuss the specifics of your situation.  If appropriate, we can schedule an appointment or I can refer you to a therapist that may better fit your needs.

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Karen Conklin-Johnson, LPC
1556 Williams St, Suite 202, Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303-909-9488
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